(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The escape of Mr. Trimm; his plight and other plights"

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/escapeofmrtrimmliOOcobbuoft 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 



THE WORKS OF 

IRVIN S. COBB 



THE ESCAPE OF 
MR. TRIMM 

HIS PLIGHT AND OTHER PLIGHTS 




The Review of Reviews Corporation 

Publishers New York 

Published by Arrangement with George H. Doran Company 






COPTBIQHT, 191S, 1918, 
Bt GxOBQB H. DoBAH CoifPABT 






COPTBIOHT, 1910, 1911, 1918, 191S AHD 1918^ 

Bt The Cnnns Publibhiho CoupAirr 

COPTHIQHT, 1913, 

Bt Thk Fbank A. MnNssr Compamt 

THE ESCAPE OF MB. TBIUU 
FBIMTKD nr TBX UMTTSD BTATXB OV AMKBICA 



TO MY WIFE 



CONTENTS 



CSAPTEB FAOE 

I. The Escape of Mb. Trimm 3 

II. The Belled Buzzard . 54 

III. An Occurrence up a Side Street .... 79 

rV. Another of Those Cub Reporter Stories • 96 

V. Smoke of Battle 142 

VI. The Exit of Anse Dugmore 179 

VII. The Thunders of Silence 202 

VIII. Fibhhead 242 

IX. Guiltt as Charged 258 



[vii] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 



I 

THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 



MR. TRIMM, recently president of the 
late Thirteenth National Bank, was 
taking a trip wJiich was different in 
a number of ways from any he had 
ever taken. To begin with, he was used to 
parlor cars and Pullmans and even luxurious 
private cars when he went anywhere; whereas 
now he rode with a most mixed company in a 
dusty, smelly day coach. In the second place, 
his traveling companion was not such a one 
as Mr. Trimm would have chosen had the 
choice been left to him, being a stupid-looking 
German-American with a drooping, yellow 
mustache. And in the third place, Mr. 
Trimm's plump white hands were folded in 
his lap, held in a close and enforced compan- 
ionship by a new and shiny pair of Bean's 
Latest Model Little Giant handcuffs. Mr. 
Trimm was on his way to the Federal peniten- 
tiary to serve twelve years at hard labor for 
breaking, one wa y or a nother, about all the 

13] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

laws that are presumed to govern national 
banks. 

All the time Mr. Trimm was in the Tombs, 
fighting for a new trial, a certain question had 
lain in his mind unasked and unanswered. 
Through the seven months of his stay in the 
jail that question had been always at the back 
part of his head, ticking away there like a 
little watch that never needed winding. A 
dozen times a day it woiild pop into his thoughts 
and then go away, only to come back again. 

When Copley was taken to the penitentiary 
— Copley being the cashier who got off with 
a lighter sentence because the judge and jury 
held him to be no more than a blind accomplice 
in the wrecking of the Thirteenth National — 
Mr. Trimm read closely every line that the 
papers carried about Copley's departure. But 
none of them had seen fit to give the young 
cashier more than a short and colorless para- 
graph. For Copley was only a small figure 
in the big intrigue that had startled the country; 
Copley didn't have the money to hire big law- 
yers to carry his appeal to the higher courts 
for him; Copley's wife was keeping boarders; 
and as for Copley himself, he had been wearing 
stripes several months now. 

With Mr. Trimm it had been vastly different. 
From the very beginning he had held the public 
eye. His bearing in court when the jury came 
in with their judgment; his cold defiance when 

m 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

the judge, in pronouncing sentence, mercilessly 
arraigned him and the system of finance for 
which he stood; the manner of his life in the 
Tombs; his spectacular fight to beat the 
verdict, had all been worth columns of news- 
paper space. If Mr. Trimm had been a popular 
poisoner, or a society woman named as co- 
respondent in a sensational divorce suit, the 
papers could not have been more generous in 
their space allotments. And Mr. Trimm in 
his cell had read all of it with smiling con- 
tempt, even to the semi-hysterical outpourings 
of the lady special writers who called him The 
Iron Man of Wall Street and undertook to 
analyze his emotions — and missed the mark 
by a thousand miles or two. 

Things had been smoothed as much as 
possible for him in the Tombs, for money and 
the power of it will go far toward ironing out 
even the corrugated routine of that big jail. 
He had a large cell to himself in the airiest, 
brightest corridor. His meals were served by 
a caterer from outside. Although he ate them 
without knife or fork, he soon learned that a 
spoon and the fingers can accomplish a good 
deal when backed by a good appetite, and Mr. 
Trimm's appetite was uniformly good. The 
warden and his underlings had been models 
of oflBcial kindliness; the newspapers had sent 
their brightest young men to interview him 
whenever he felt like talking, which wasn't 
often; and surely his lawyers had done all in 

[5] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

his behalf tJi%t money — a great deal of money 
— could do. Perhaps it was because of these 
things that Mr. Trimm had never been able 
to bring himself to reaHze that he was the 
Hobart W. Trimm who had been sentenced to 
the Federal prison; it seemed to him, somehow, 
that he, personally, was merely a spectator 
standing to one side watching the fight of 
another man to dodge the penitentiary. 

However, he didn't fail to give the other man 
the advantage of every chance that money 
would buy. This sense of aloofness to the 
whole thing had persisted even when his 
personal lawyer came to him one night in the 
early fall and told him that the court of last 
possible resort had denied the last possible 
motion. Mr. Trimm cut the lawyer short 
with a shake of his head as the other began 
saying something about the chances of a pardon 
from the President. Mr. Trimm wasn't in 
the habit of letting men deceive him with idle 
words. No President would pardon him, and 
he knew it. 

"Never mind that, Walling," he said steadily, 
when the lawyer offered to come to see him 
again before he started for prison the next 
day. "If you'll see that a drawing-room on 
the train is reserved for me — for us, I mean — 
and all that sort of thing, I'll not detain you 
any further. I have a good many things to do 
tonight. Good night." 

"Such a man, such a man," said Walling to 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

himself as he dimbed into his car; "all chilled 
steel and brains. And they are going to lock 
that brain up for twelve years. It's a crime," 
said Walling, and shook his head. Walling 
always said it was a crime when they sent a 
client of his to prison. To his credit be it 
said, though, they sent very few of them 
there. Walling made as high as fifty thousand 
a year at criminal law. Some of it was very 
criminal law indeed. His specialty was pick- 
ing holes in the statutes faster than the legisla- 
ture could make them and provide them and 
putty them up with amendments. This was 
the first case he had lost in a good long time. 

When Jerry, the turnkey, came for him in 
the morning Mr. Trimm had made as careful 
a toilet as the limited means at his command 
permitted, and he had eaten a hearty break- 
fast and was ready to go, all but putting on his 
hat. Looking the picture of well-groomed, 
close-buttoned, iron-gray middle age, Mr. 
Trimm followed the turnkey through the long 
corridor and down the winding iron stairs to 
the warden's oflSce. He gave no heed to the 
curious eyes that followed him through the 
barred doors of many cells; his feet rang 
briskly on the flags. 

The warden, Hallam, was there in the private 

office with another man, a tall, raw-boned 

man with a drooping, straw-colored mustache 

and the unmistakable look about him of the 

[71 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

police officer. Mr. Trimm knew without being 
told that this was the man who would take 
him to prison. The stranger was standing at 
a desk, signing some papers. 

"Sit down, please, Mr. Trimm," said the 
warden with a nervous cordiaUty. " Be through 
here in just one minute. This is Deputy- 
Marshal Meyers," he added. 

Mr. Trimm started to tell this Mr. Meyers 
he was glad to meet him, but caught himself and 
merely nodded. The man stared at him with 
neither interest nor curiosity in his dull blue 
eyes. The warden moved over toward the 
door. 

"Mr. Trimm," he said, clearing his throat, 
"I took the liberty of calHng a cab to take 
you gents up to the Grand Central. It's 
out front now. But there's a big crowd of 
reporters and photographers and a lot of other 
people waiting, and if I was you I'd slip out 
the back way — one of my men will open the 
yard gate for you — and jump aboard the 
subway down at Worth Street. Then you'll 
miss those fellows." 

"Thank you. Warden — very kind of you," 
said Mr. Trimm in that crisp, businesslike way 
of his. He had been crisp and businesslike 
all his life. He heard a door opening softly 
behind him, and when he turned to look he 
saw the warden slipping out, furtively, in 
almost an embarrassed fashion. 

"Well," said Meyers, "all ready?" 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"Yes," said Mr. Trimm, and he made as if 
to rise. 

"Wait one minute," said Meyers. 

He half turned his back on Mr. Trimm and 
fumbled at the side pocket of his ill-hanging 
coat. Something inside of Mr. Trimm gave 
the least little jump, and the question that 
had ticked away so busily all those months 
began to buzz, buzz in his ears; but it was 
only a handkerchief the man was getting out. 
Doubtless he was going to mop his face. 

He didn't mop his face, though. He unrolled 
the handkerchief slowly, as if it contained 
something immensely fragile and valuable, and 
then, thrusting it back in his pocket, he faced 
Mr. Trimm. He was carrying in his hands 
a pair of handcuffs that hung open-jawed. 
The jaws had little notches in them, like 
teeth that could bite. The question that had 
ticked in Mr. Trimm's head was answered at 
last — in the sight of these steel things with 
their notched jaws. 

Mr. Trimm stood up and, with a movement 
as near to hesitation as he had ever been guilty 
of in his life, held out his hands, backs upward. 

"I guess you're new at this kind of thing," 
said Meyers, grinning. "This here way — 
one at a time." 

He took hold of Mr. Trimm's right hand, 
turned it sideways and settled one of the 
steel cuffs over the top of the wrist, flipping 
the notched jaw up fro m beneath and press- 

[9] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ing it in so that it locked automatically with 
a brisk little click. Slipping the locked cuff 
back and forth on Mr. Trimm's lower arm like 
a man adjusting a part of machinery, and then 
bringing the left hand up to meet the right, he 
treated it the same way. Then he stepped 
back. 

Mr. Trimm hadn't meant to protest. The 
word came unbidden. 

"This — this isn't necessary, is it?" he 
asked in a voice that was husky and didn't 
seem to belong to him. 

"Yep," said Meyers. "Standin' orders is 
play no favorites and take no chances. But 
you won't find them things uncomfortable. 
Lightest pair there was in the oflfice, and I 
fixed 'em plenty loose." 

For half a minute Mr. Trimm stood like a 
rooster hypnotized by a chalkmark, his arms 
extended, his eyes set on his bonds. His 
hands had fallen perhaps four inches apart, 
and in the space between his wrists a little 
chain was stretched taut. In the mounting 
tumult that filled his brain there sprang before 
Mr. Trimm's consciousness a phrase he had 
heard or read somewhere, the title of a story 
, or, perhaps, it was a headline — The Grips 
of the Law. The Grips of the Law were upon 
Mr. Trimm — he felt them now for the first 
time in these shiny wristlets and this bit of 
chain that bound his wrists and filled his whole 
body with a strange, sinking feeling that made 

110] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

him physically sick. A sudden sweat beaded out 
on Mr. Trimm's face, turning it slick and wet. 

He had a handkerchief, a fine linen handker- 
chief with a hemstitched border and a mono- 
gram on it, in the upper breast pocket of his 
buttoned coat. He tried to reach it. His 
hands went up, twisting awkwardly like crab 
claws. The fingers of both plucked out the 
handkerchief. Holding it so, Mr. Trimm 
mopped the sweat away. The links of the 
handcuffs fell in upon one another and length- 
ened out again at each movement, filling the 
room with a smart little sound. 

He got the handkerchief stowed away with 
the same clumsiness. He raised the manacled 
hands to his hat brim, gave it a downward 
pull that brought it over his face and then, 
letting his short arms slide down upon his 
plump stomach, he faced the man who had 
put the fetters upon him, squaring his shoul- 
ders back. But it was hard, somehow, for him 
to square his shoulders — perhaps because of 
his hands being drawn so closely together. 
And his eyes would waver and fall upon his 
wrists. Mr. Trimm had a feeling that the skin 
must be stretched very tight on his jawbones 
and his forehead. 

"Isn't there some way to hide these — these 
things.^" 

He began by blurting and ended by faltering 
it. His hands shuffled together, one over, 

then under the other. 

^ * 

[11] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"Here's a way," said Meyers. "This'll 
help." 

He bestirred himself, folding one of the 
chained hands upon the other, tugging at the 
white linen cuffs and drawing the coat sleeves 
of his prisoner down over the bonds as far as 
the chain would let them come. 

"There's the notion," he said. "Just do 
that-a-way and them bracelets won't hardly 
show a-tall. Ready .^^ Let's be movin', then." 

But handcuffs were never meant to be hidden. 
Merely a pair of steel rings clamped to one's 
wrists and coupled together with a scrap of 
chain, but they'll twist your arms and hamper 
the movements of your body in a way to con- 
stantly catch the eye of the passer-by. When 
a man is coming toward you you can tell that 
he is handcuffed before you see the cuffs. 

Mr. Trimm was never able to recall after- 
ward exactly how he got out of the Tombs. 
He had a confused memory of a gate that was 
swung open by some one whom Mr. Trimm 
saw only from the feet to the waist; then he 
and his companion were out on Lafayette 
Street, speeding south toward the subway 
entrance at Worth Street, two blocks below, 
with the marshal's hand cupped under Mr. 
Trimm's right elbow and Mr. Trimm's plump 
legs almost trotting in their haste. For a 
moment it looked as if the warden's well- 
meant artifice would serve them. 

But New York reporters are up to the tricks 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

of people who want to evade them. At the 
sight of them a sentry reporter on the corner 
shouted a warning which was instantly caught 
up and passed on by another picket stationed 
half-way down the block; and around the wall 
of the Tombs came pelting a flying mob of 
newspaper photographers and reporters, with 
a choice rabble behind them. Foot passengers 
took up the chase, not knowing what it was 
about, but sensing a free show. Truckmen 
halted their teams, jumped down from their 
wagon seats and joined in. A man-chase is 
one of the pleasantest outdoor sports that a 
big city like New York can offer its people. 

Fairly running now, the manacled banker 
and the deputy marshal shot down the winding 
steps into the subway a good ten yards ahead 
of the foremost pursuers. But there was one 
delay, while Meyers skirmished with his free 
hand in his trousers' pocket for a dime for the 
tickets, and another before a northbound local 
rolled into the station. Shouted at, jeered at, 
shoved this way and that, panting in gulping 
breaths, for he was stout by nature and staled 
by lack of exercise, Mr. Trimm, with Meyers 
clutching him by the arm, was fairly shot 
aboard one of the cars, at the apex of a human 
wedge. The astonished guard sensed the situ- 
ation as the scrooging, shoving, noisy wave 
rolled across the platform toward the doors 
which he had opened and, thrusting the officer 
and his pr isoner i nto the narrow platform space 
[13] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

behind him, he tried to form with his body a 
barrier against those who came jamming in. 

It didn't do any good. He was brushed 
away, protesting and blustering. The excite- 
ment spread through the train, and men, and 
even women, left their seats, overflowing the 
aisles. 

There is no cruder thing than a city crowd, 
all eyes and morbid curiosity. But Mr. Trimm 
didn't see the staring eyes on that ride to the 
Grand Central, What he saw was many shift- 
ing feet and a hedge of legs shutting him in 
closely — those and the things on his wrists. 
What the eyes of the crowd saw was a small, 
stout man who, for all his bulk, seemed to have 
dried up inside his clothes so that they bagged 
on him some places and bulged others, with 
his head tucked on his chest, his hat over his 
face and his fingers straining to hold his coat 
sleeves down over a pair of steel bracelets. 

Mr. Trimm gave mental thanks to a Deity 

whose existence he thought he had forgotten 

when the gate of the train-shed clanged behind 

him, shutting out the mob that had come with 

them all the way. Cameras had been shoved 

in his face like gun muzzles, reporters had 

scuttled alongside him, dodging under Meyers* 

fending arm to shout questions in his ears. 

He had neither spoken nor looked at them. 

The sweat still ran down his face, so that when 

finally he raised his head in the comparative 

quiet of the train-shed his skin was a curious 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

^— ^— — — ■■!■ II ■ ■! I II. ■■Ill I ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ ■ II ■— ^— — P^— ^^^ 

gray under the jail paleness like the color of 
wet wood ashes. 

"My lawyer promised to arrange for a com- 
partment — for some private place on the 
train," he said to Meyers. "The conductor 
ought to know." 

They were the first words he had uttered 
since he left the Tombs. Meyers spoke to a 
jaunty Pullman conductor who stood along- 
side the car where they had halted. 

"No such reservation," said the conductor, 
running through his sheaf of slips, with his eyes 
shifting from Mr. Trimm's face to Mr. Trimm's 
hands and back again, as though he couldn't 
decide which was the more interesting part of 
him; "must be some mistake. Or else it was 
for some other train. Too late to change now 
— we pull out in three minutes." 

"I reckon we better git on the smoker,** 
said Meyers, "if there's room there." 

Mr. Trimm was steered back again the length 
of the train through a double row of pop-eyed 
porters and staring trainmen. At the steps 
where they stopped the instinct to stretch out 
one hand and swing himself up by the rail 
operated automatically and his wrists got a 
nasty twist. Meyers and a brakeman prac- 
tically lifted him up the steps and Meyers 
headed him into a car that was hazy with blue 
tobacco smoke. He was confused in his gait, 
almost as if his lower limbs had been fettered, 

too. ^^^^^^ 

[15] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

The car was full of shirt-sleeved men who 
stood up, craning their necks and stumbling 
over each other in their desire to see him. 
These men came out into the aisle, so that 
Meyers had to shove through them. 

"This here'll do as well as any, I guess," 
said Meyers. He drew Mr. Trimm past him 
into the seat nearer the window and sat down 
alongside him on the side next the aisle, settling 
himself on the stuffy plush seat and breathing 
deeply, like a man who had got through the 
hardest part of a not easy job. 

"Smoke?" he asked. 

Mr. Trimm shook his head without raising it. 

"Them cuffs feel plenty easy?" was the 
deputy's next question. He lifted Mr. Trimm*s 
hands as casually as if they had been his 
hands and not Mr. Trimm's, and looked at 
them. 

"Seem to be all right," he said as he let them 
fall back. "Don't pinch none, I reckon?" 
There was no answer. 

The deputy tugged a minute at his mus- 
tache, searching his arid mind. An idea came 
to him. He drew a newspaper from his pocket, 
opened it out flat and spread it over Mr. 
Trimm's lap so that it covered the chained 
wrists. Almost instantly the train was in 
motion, moving through the yards. 

"Be there in two hours more," volunteered 

Meyers. It was late afternoon. They were 
— 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

sliding through woodlands with occasional 
openings which showed meadows melting into 
wide, flat lands. 

"Want a drink .f^" said the deputy, next. 
"No? Well, I guess I'll have a drop myself. 
Travelin' fills a feller's throat full of dust." 
He got up, lurching to the motion of the flying 
train, and started forward to the water cooler 
behind the car door. He had gone perhaps 
two-thirds of the way when Mr. Trimm felt 
a queer, grinding sensation beneath his feet; 
it was exactly as though the train were trying 
to go forward and back at the same time. 
Almost slowly, it seemed to him, the forward 
end of the car slued out of its straight course, 
at the same time tilting up. There was a 
grinding, roaring, grating sound, and before 
Mr. Trimm's eyes Meyers vanished, tumbling 
forward out of sight as the car floor buckled 
under his feet. Then, as everything — the 
train, the earth, the sky — all fused together 
in a great spatter of white and black, Mr. 
Trimm, plucked from his seat as though a 
giant hand had him by the collar, shot forward 
through the air over the seatbacks, his chained 
hands aloft, clutching wildly. He rolled out 
of a ragged opening where the smoker had 
broken in two, flopped gently on the sloping 
side of the right-of-way and slid easily to the 
bottom, where he lay quiet and still on his 
back in a bed of weeds and wild grass, staring 
straight up. 

[171 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

How many minutes he lay there Mr. Trimm 
didn't know. It may have been the shrieks 
of the victims or the glare from the fire that 
brought him out of the daze. He wriggled 
his body to a sitting posture, got on his feet, 
holding his head between his coupled hands, 
and gazed full-face into the crowning railroad 
horror of the year. 

There were numbers of the passengers who 
had escaped serious hurt, but for the most part 
these persons seemed to have gone daft from 
terror and shock. Some were running aim- 
lessly up and down and some, a few, were 
pecking feebly with improvised tools at the 
wreck, an indescribable jumble of ruin, from 
which there issued cries of mortal agony, and 
from which, at a point where two locomotives 
were lying on their sides, jammed together like 
fighting bucks that had died with locked horns, 
a tall flame already rippled and spread, send- 
ing up a pillar of black smoke that rose straight, 
poisoning the clear blue of the sky. Nobody 
paid any attention to Mr. Trimm as he stood 
swaying upon his feet. There wasn't a scratch 
on him. His clothes were hardly rumpled, 
his hat was still on his head. He stood a 
minute and then, moved by a sudden impulse, 
he turned round and went running straight 
away from the railroad at the best speed his 
pudgy legs could accomplish, with his arms 
pumping up and down in front of him 
and his fingers interlaced. It was a grotesque 
[181 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

gait, almost like a rabbit hopping on its 
hindlegs. 

Instantly, almost, the friendly woods grow- 
ing down to the edge of the fill swallowed him 
up. He dodged and doubled back and forth 
among the tree trunks, his small, patent- 
leathered feet skipping nimbly over the irreg- 
ular turf, until he stopped for lack of wind in 
his lungs to carry him another rod. When 
he had got his breath back Mr. Trimm leaned 
against a tree and bent his head this way and 
that, listening. No sound came to his ears 
except the sleepy calls of birds. As well as 
Mr. Trimm might judge he had come far into 
the depths of a considerable woodland. Already 
the shadows under the low limbs were growing 
thick and confused as the hurried twilight of 
early September came on. 

Mr. Trimm sat down on a natural cushion of 
thick green moss between two roots of an oak. 
The place was clean and soft and sweet-scented. 
For some little time he sat there motionless, 
in a sort of mental haze. Then his round body 
slowly slid down flat upon the moss, his head 
lolled to one side and, the reaction having come, 
Mr. Trimm's limbs all relaxed and he went to 
sleep straightway. 

After a while, when the woods were black 

and still, the half -grown moon came up and, 

sifting through a chink in the canopy of leaves 

above, shone down full on Mr. Trimm as he 

lay snoring gently with h is mouth open and 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

his hands rising and falling on his breast. The 
moonlight struck upon the Little Giant hand- 
cuffs, making them look like quicksilver. "] 

Toward daylight it turned off sharp and cool. 
The dogwoods which had been a solid color at 
nightfall now showed pink in one light and 
green in another, like changeable silk, as the 
first level rays of the sun came up over the 
rim of the earth and made long, golden lanes 
between the tree trunks. Mr. Trimm opened 
his eyes slowly, hardly sensing for the first 
moment or two how he came to be lying under 
a canopy of leaves, and gaped, seeking to 
stretch his arms. At that he remembered 
everything; he haunched his shoulders against 
the tree roots and wriggled himself up to a 
sitting position where he stayed for a while, 
letting his mind run over the sequence of 
events that had brought him where he was 
and taking inventory of the situation. 

Of escape he had no thought. The hue and 
cry must be out for him before now; doubtless 
men were already searching for him. It would 
be better for him to walk in and surrender 
than to be taken in the woods like an animal 
escaped from a traveling menagerie. But 
the mere thought of enduring again what he 
had already gone through — the thought of 
being tagged by crowds and stared at, with 
his fetters on — filled him with a nausea. 
Nothing that the Federal penitentiary might 
hold in store for him could equal the black, 
[io] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

blind shamefulness of yesterday; he knew 
that. The thought of the new ignominy that 
faced him made Mr. Trimm desperate. He 
had a desire to burrow into the thicket yonder 
and hide his face and his chained hands. 

But perhaps he could get the handcuffs off and 
so go to meet his captors in some manner of 
dignity. Strange that the idea hadn't occurred 
to him before! It seemed to Mr. Trimm that 
he desired to get his two hands apart more 
than he had ever desired anything in his whole 
life before. 

The hands had begun naturally to adjust 
themselves to their enforced companionship, 
and it wasn't such a very hard matter, though 
it cost him some painful wrenches and much 
twisting of the fingers, for Mr. Trimm to get 
his coat unbuttoned and his eyeglasses in their 
small leather case out of his upper waistcoat 
pocket. With the glasses on his nose he sub- 
jected his bonds to a critical examination. 
Each rounded steel band ran unbroken except 
for the smooth, almost jointless hinge and the 
small lock which sat perched on the back of the 
wrist in a little rounded excrescence like a steel 
wart. In the flat center of each lock was a 
small keyhole and alongside of it a notched 
nub, the nub being sunk in a minute depression. 
On the inner side, underneath, the cuffs slid 
into themselves — two notches on each show- 
ing where the jaws might be tightened to fit 
a smaller hand than his — and right over the 

[21] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

large blue veins in the middle of the wrists were 
swivel links, shackle-bolted to the cuffs and 
connected by a flat, slightly larger middle link, 
giving the hands a palm-to-palm play of not 
more than four or five inches. The cuffs did 
not hurt — even after so many hours there 
was no actual discomfort from them and the 
flesh beneath them was hardly reddened. 

But it didn't take Mr. Trimm long to find 
out that they were not to be got off. He 
tugged and pulled, trying with his fingers for 
a purchase. All he did was to chafe his skin 
and make his wrists throb with pain. The 
cuffs would go forward just so far, then the 
little humps of bone above the hands would 
catch and hold them. 

Mr. Trimm was not a man to waste time in 
the pursuit of the obviously hopeless. Pres- 
ently he stood up, shook himself and started 
off at a fair gait through the woods. The 
sun was up now and the turf was all dappled 
with lights and shadows, and about him much 
small, furtive wild life was stirring. He stepped 
along briskly, a strange figure for that green 
solitude, with his correct city garb and the 
glint of the steel at his sleeve ends. 

Presently he heard the long-drawn, quaver- 
ing, banshee wail of a locomotive. The sound 
came from almost behind him, in an opposite 
direction from where he supposed the track 
to be. So he turned around and went back 
the other way. He crossed a half-dried-up 
[221 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

runlet and climbed a small hill, neither of 
which he remembered having met in his flight 
from the wreck, and in a little while he came 
out upon the railroad. To the north a little 
distance the rails ran round a curve. To the 
south, where the diminishing rails running 
through the unbroken woodland met in a long, 
shiny V, he could see a big smoke smudge 
against the horizon. This smoke Mr. Trimm 
knew must come from the wreck — which was 
still burning, evidently. As nearly as he 
could judge he had come out of cover at least 
two miles above it. After a moment's con- 
sideration he decided to go south toward the 
wreck. Soon he could distinguish small dots 
like ants moving in and out about the black 
spot, and he knew these dots must be men. 

A whining, whirring sound came along the 
rails to him from behind. He faced about 
just as a handcar shot out around the curve 
from the north, moving with amazing rapidity 
under the strokes of four men at the pumps. 
Other men, laborers to judge by their blue 
overalls, were sitting on the edges of the car 
with their feet dangling. For the second time 
within twelve hours impulse ruled Mr. Trimm, 
who wasn't given to impulses normally. He 
made a jump off the right-of-way, and as the 
handcar flashed by he watched its flight from 
the covert of a weed tangle. 

But even as the handcar was passing him 

Mr. Trimm regretted h is hastiness. He must 
_ — ^ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

surrender himself sooner or later; why not to 
these overalled laborers, since it was a thing 
that had to be done? He slid out of hiding and 
came trotting back to the tracks. Already 
the handcar was a hundred yards away, flit- 
ting into distance like some big, wonderfully 
fast bug, the figures of the men at the pumps 
rising and falling with a walking-beam regu- 
larity. As he stood watching them fade away 
and minded to try hailing them, yet still 
hesitating against his judgment, Mr. Trimm 
saw something white drop from the hands of 
one of the blue-clad figures on the handcar, 
unfold into a newspaper and come fluttering 
back along the tracks toward him. Just as he, 
starting doggedly ahead, met it, the little 
ground breeze that had carried it along died 
out and the paper dropped and flattened right 
in front of him. The front page was upper- 
most and he knew it must be of that morning's 
issue, for across the column tops ran the flaring 
headline: "Twenty Dead in Frightful Collision." 
Squatting on the cindered track, Mr. Trimm 
patted the crumpled sheet flat with his hands. 
His eyes dropped from the first of the glaring 
captions to the second, to the next — and 
then his heart gave a great bound inside of him 
and, clutching up the newspaper to his breast, 
he bounded off the tracks back into another 
thicket and huddled there with the paper 
spread on the earth in front of him, reading by 
gulps while the c hain that linked wrist to wrist 
[241 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

tinkled to the tremors running through him. 
What he had seen first, in staring black-face 
type, was his own name leading the list of 
known dead, and what he saw now, broken up 
into choppy paragraphs and done in the nervous 
English of a trained reporter throwing a great 
news story together to catch an edition, but 
telling a clear enough story nevertheless, was 
a narrative in which his name recurred again 
and again. The body of the United States 
deputy marshal, Meyers, frightfully crushed, 
had been taken from the wreckage of the 
smoker — so the double-leaded story ran — 
and near to Meyers another body, with features 
burned beyond recognition, yet still retaining 
certain distinguishing marks of measurement 
and contour, had been found and identified 
as that of Hobart W. Trimm, the convicted 
banker. The bodies of these two, with eight- 
een other mangled dead, had been removed 
to a town called Westfield, from which town 
of Westfield the account of the disaster had 
been telegraphed to the New York paper. In 
another column farther along was more about 
Banker Trimm; facts about his soiled, selfish, 
greedy, successful life, his great fortune, his 
trial, and a statement that, lacking any close 
kin to claim his body, his lawyers had been 
notified. 

Mr. Trimm read the account through to 
the end, and as he read the sense of dominant, 
masterful self-control came back to him in 
[25] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

waves. He got up, taking the paper with 
him, and went back into the deeper woods, 
moving warily and watchfully. As he went 
his mind, trained to take hold of problems and 
wring the essence out of them, was busy. Of 
the charred, grisly thing in the improvised 
morgue at Westfield, wherever that might be, 
Mr. Trimm took no heed nor wasted any pity. 
All his life he had used live men to work his 
will, with no thought of what might come to 
them afterward. The living had served him, 
why not the dead? 

He had other things to think of than this 
dead proxy of his. He was as good as free! 
There would be no hunt for him now; no 
alarm out, no posses combing every scrap of 
cover for a famous criminal turned fugitive. 
He had only to he quiet a few days, some- 
where, then get in secret touch with Walling. 
Walling would do anything for money. And 
he had the money — four millions and more, 
cannily saved from the crash that had ruined 
so many others. 

He would alter his personal appearance, 
change his name — he thought of Duvall, 
which was his mother's name — and with 
Walling's aid he would get out of the country 
and into some other country where a man 
might live like a prince on four millions or the 
fractional part of it. He thought of South 
America, of South Africa, of a private yacht 
swinging through the little frequented islands 
[26] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

of the South Seas. All that the law had tried 
to take from him would be given back. Wall- 
ing would work out the details of the escape 
— and make it safe and sure — trust Walling 
for those things. On one side was the prison, 
with its promise of twelve grinding years 
sliced out of the very heart of his life; on the 
other, freedom, ease, security, even power. 
Through Mr. Trimm's mind tumbled thoughts 
of concessions, enterprises, privileges — the 
back corners of the globe were full of possibil- 
ities for the right man. And between this 
prospect and Mr. Trimm there stood nothing 
in the way, nothing but 

Mr. Trimm's eyes fell upon his bound hands. 
Snug-fitting, shiny steel bands irked his wrists. 
The Grips of the Law were still upon him. 

But only in a way of speaking. It was pre- 
posterous, unbelievable, altogether out of the 
question that a man with four millions salted 
down and stored away, a man who all his life 
had been used to grappling with the big things 
and wrestling them down into submission, a 
man whose luck had come to be a byword — 
and had not it held good even in this last 
emergency? — would be balked by puny scraps 
of forged steel and a trumpery lock or two. 
Why, these cuffs were no thicker than the gold 
bands that Mr. Trimm had seen on the arms 
of overdressed women at the opera. The 
chain that joined them was no larger and, 
probably, no stronger than the chains which 
[271 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Mr. Trimm's chauffeur wrapped around the 
tires of the touring car in winter to keep the 
wheels from skidding on the sjlush. There 
would be a way, surely, for Mr. Trimm to free 
himself from these things. There must be — 
that was all there was to it. 

Mr. Trimm looked himself over. His clothes 
were not badly rumpled; his patent-leather 
boots were scarcely scratched. Without the 
handcuffs he could pass unnoticed anywhere. 
By night then he must be free of them and on 
his way to some small inland city, to stay 
quiet there until the guarded telegram that 
he would send in cipher had reached Walling. 
There in the woods by himself Mr. Trimm no 
longer felt the ignominy of his bonds; he felt 
only the temporary embarrassment of them 
and the need of added precaution until he 
should have mastered them. 

He was once more the unemotional man 
of affairs who had stood Wall Street on its 
esteemed head and caught the golden streams 
that trickled from its pockets. First making 
sure that he was in a well-screened covert of 
the woods he set about exploring all his pockets. 
The coat pockets were comparatively easy, now 
that he had got used to using two hands where 
one had always served, but it cost him a lot 
of twisting of his body and some pain to his 
mistreated wrist bones to bring forth the 
contents of his trousers' pockets. The chain 
kinked time and again as he groped with the 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

undermost hand for the openings; his dumpy, 
pudgy form writhed grotesquely. But finally 
he finished. The search produced four cigars 
somewhat crumpled and frayed; some matches 
in a gun-metal case, a silver cigar cutter, two 
five-dollar bills, a handful of silver chicken 
feed, the leather case of the eyeglasses, a couple 
of quill toothpicks, a gold watch with a dan- 
gling fob, a notebook and some papers. Mr. 
Trimm ranged these things in a neat row upon 
a log, like a watchmaker setting out his kit, 
and took swift inventory of them. Some he 
eliminated from his design, stowing them back 
in the pockets easiest to reach. He kept for 
present employment the match safe, the cigar 
cutter and the watch. 

This place where he had halted would suit 
his present purpose well, he decided. It was 
where an uprooted tree, fallen across an incurv- 
ing bank, made a snug little recess that was 
closed in on three sides. Spreading the news- 
paper on the turf to save his knees from soiling, 
he knelt and set to his task. For the time he 
felt neither hunger nor thirst. He had found 
out during his earlier experiments that the 
nails of his little fingers, which were trimmed 
to a point, could invade the keyholes in the 
little steel warts on the backs of his wrists and 
touch the locks. The mechanism had even 
twitched a little bit under the tickle of the 
nail ends. So, having already smashed the gun- 
metal match safe under his heel, Mr. Trimm 
[29] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

selected a slender-pointed bit from among its 
fragments and got to work, the left hand drawn 
up under the right, the fingers of the right 
busy with the lock of the left, the chain 
tightening and slackening with subdued clink- 
ing sounds at each movement. 

Mr. Trimm didn't know much about picking 
a lock. He had got his money by a higher form 
of burglary that did not require a knowledge 
of lock picking. Nor as a boy had he been 
one to play at mechanics. He had let other 
boys make the toy fluttermills and the wooden 
traps and the like, and then he had traded 
for them. He was sorry now that he hadn't 
given more heed to the mechanical side of 
things when he was growing up. 

He worked with a deliberate slowness, 
steadily. Nevertheless, it was hot work. The 
sun rose over the bank and shone on him 
through the limbs of the uprooted tree. His 
hat was on the ground alongside of him. The 
sweat ran down his face, streaking it and wilt- 
ing his collar flat. The scrap of gun metal 
kept slipping out of his wet fingers. Down 
would go the chained hands to scrabble in the 
grass for it, and then the picking would go on 
again. This happened a good many times. 
Birds, nervous with the spirit that presages 
the fall migration, flew back and forth along 
the creek, almost grazing Mr. Trimm some- 
times. A rain crow wove a brown thread in 
the green warp of the bushes above his head. 
[301 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

A chattering red squirrel sat up on a tree 
limb to scold him. At intervals, distantly, 
came the cough of laboring trains, showing 
that the track must have been cleared. There 
were times when Mr. Trimm thought he felt 
the lock giving. These times he would work 
harder. 

Late in the afternoon Mr. Trimm lay back 
against the bank, panting. His face was 
splotched with red, and the little hollows at 
the sides of his forehead pulsed rapidly up and 
down like the bellies of scared tree frogs. The 
bent outer case of the watch littered a bare 
patch on the log; its mainspring had gone the 
way of the fragments of the gun-metal match 
safe which were lying all about, each a worn- 
down, twisted wisp of metal. The spring of 
the eyeglasses had been confiscated long ago 
and the broken crystals powdered the earth 
where Mr. Trimm's toes had scraped a smooth 
patch. The nails of the two little fingers were 
worn to the quick and splintered down into 
the raw flesh. There were countless tiny 
scratches and mars on the locks of the hand- 
cufiFs, and the steel wristbands were dulled with 
blood smears and pale-red tarnishes of new 
rust; but otherwise they were as stanch and 
strong a pair of Bean's Latest Model Little 
Giant handcuffs as you'd find in any hard- 
ware store anywhere. 

The devilish, stupi d malignity of the damned 

[in 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

things! With an acid oath Mr. Trimm raised 
his hands and brought them down on the log 
violently. There was a double click and the 
bonds tightened painfully, pressing the chafed 
red skin white. Mr. Trimm snatched up his 
hands close to his near-sighted eyes and looked. 
One of the little notches on the under side of 
each cuff had disappeared. It was as if they 
were living things that had turned and bitten 
him for the blow he gave them. 

From the time the sun went down there 
was a tingle of frost in the air. Mr. Trimm 
didn't sleep much. Under the squeeze of the 
tightened fetters his wrists throbbed steadily 
and racking cramps ran through his arms. 
His stomach felt as though it were tied into 
knots. The water that he drank from the 
branch only made his hunger sickness worse. 
His undergarments, that had been wet with 
perspiration, clung to him clammily. His 
middle-aged, tenderly-cared-for body called 
through every pore for clean linen and soap 
and water and rest, as his empty insides called 
for food. 

After a while he became so chilled that the 
, demand for warmth conquered his instinct 
for caution. He felt about him in the darkness, 
gathering scraps of dead wood, and, after break- 
ing several of the matches that had been in the 
gun-metal match safe, he managed to strike 
one and with its tiny flame started a fire. He 
[32] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

huddled almost over the fire, coughing when 
the smoke blew into his face and twisting and 
pulling at his arms in an effort to get relief 
from the everlasting cramps. It seemed to 
him that if he could only get an inch or two 
more of play for his hands he would be ever 
so much more comfortable. But he couldn't, 
of course. 

He dozed, finally, sitting crosslegged with 
his head sunk between his hunched shoulders. 
A pain in a new place woke him. The fire 
had burned almost through the thin sole of his 
right shoe, and as he scrambled to his feet and 
stamped, the clap of the hot leather flat against 
his blistered foot almost made him cry out. 

Soon after sunrise a boy came riding a horse 
down a faintly traced footpath along the 
creek, driving a cow with a bell on her neck 
ahead of him. Mr. Trimm's ears caught the 
sound of the clanking bell before either the 
cow or her herder was in sight, and he limped 
away, running, skulking through the thick 
cover. A pendent loop of a wild grapevine, 
swinging low, caught his hat and flipped it off 
his head; but Mr. Trimm, imagining pursuit, 
did not stop to pick it up and went on bare- 
headed until he had to stop from exhaustion. 
He saw some dark-red berries on a shrub upon 
which he had trod, and, stooping, he plucked 
some of them with his two hands and put 
three or four in his mo uth experimentally. 
[331 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Warned instantly by the acrid, burning taste, 
he spat the crushed berries out and went on 
doggedly, following, according to his best 
judgment, a course parallel to the railroad. 
It was characteristic of him, a city-raised man, 
that he took no heed of distances nor of the 
distinguishing marks of the timber. 

Behind a log at the edge of a small clearing 
in the woods he halted some little time, watch- 
ing and listening. The clearing had grown 
up in sumacs and weeds and small saplings 
and it seemed deserted; certainly it was still. 
Near the center of it rose the sagging roof of 
what had been a shack or a shed of some sort. 
Stooping cautiously, to keep his bare head 
below the tops of the sumacs, Mr. Trimm 
made for the ruined shanty and gained it 
safely. In the midst of the rotted, punky 
logs that had once formed the walls he began 
scraping with his feet. Presently he uncovered 
something. It was a broken-off harrow tooth, 
scaled like a long, red fish with the crusted rust 
of years. 

Mr. Trimm rested the lower rims of his hand- 
cuffs on the edge of an old, broken watering 
trough, worked the pointed end of the rust- 
crusted harrow tooth into the flat middle link 
of the chain as far as it would go, and then 
with one hand on top of the other he pressed 
downward with all his might. The pain in his 
wrists made him stop this at once. The link 
had not sprung or given in the least, but the 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

twisting pressure had almost broken his wrist 
bones. He let the harrow tooth fall, knowing 
that it would never serve as a lever to free him 
— which, indeed, he had known all along — 
and sat on the side of the trough, rubbing his 
wrists and thinking. 

He had another idea. It came into his mind 
as a vague suggestion that fire had certain 
efifects upon certain metals. He kindled a 
fire of bits of the rotted wood, and when the 
flames ran together and rose slender and straight 
in a single red thread he thrust the chain into 
it, holding his hands as far apart as possible 
in the attitude of a player about to catch a 
bounced ball. But immediately the pain of 
that grew unendurable too, and he leaped 
back, jerking his hands away. He had suc- 
ceeded only in blackening the steel and putting 
a big water blister on one of his wrists right 
where the shackle bolt would press upon it. 

Where he huddled down in the shelter of 
one of the fallen walls he noticed, presently, 
a strand of rusted fence wire still held to half- 
tottering posts by a pair of blackened staples; 
it was part of a pen that had been used once 
for chickens or swine. Mr. Trimm tried the 
wire with his fingers. It was firm and springy. 
Rocking and groaning with the pain of it, he 
nevertheless began sliding the chain back and 
forth, back and forth along the strand of wire. 

Eventually the wire, weakened by age, 
snapped in two. A tiny shined spot, hardly 
[351 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

deep enough to be called a nick, in its tar- 
nished, smudged surface was all the mark that 
the chain showed. 

Staggering a little and putting his feet 
down unsteadily, Mr. Trimm left the clearing, 
heading as well as he could tell eastward, away 
from the railroad. After a mile or two he came 
to a dusty wood road winding downhill. 

To the north of the clearing where Mr. 
Trimm had halted were a farm and a group 
of farm buildings. To the southward a mile 
or so was a cluster of dwellings set in the midst 
of more farm lands, with a shop or two and a 
small white church with a green spire in the 
center. Along a road that ran northward from 
the hamlet to the solitary farm a ten-year-old 
boy came, carrying a covered tin pail. A 
young gray squirrel flirted across the wagon 
ruts ahead of him and darted up a chestnut 
sapling. The boy put the pail down at the 
side of the road and began looking for a stone 
to throw at the squirrel. 

Mr. Trimm slid out from behind a tree. A 
hemstitched handkerchief, grimed and stained, 
was loosely twisted around his wrists, partly 
hiding the handcuffs. He moved along with 
a queer, sliding gait, keeping as much of his 
body as he could turned from the youngster. 
The ears of the little chap caught the faint 
scuffle of feet and he spun around on his bare 
heel. 

*'My boy, would you- " Mr. Trimm began. 

[361 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

The boy's round eyes widened at the appari- 
tion that was sidling toward him in so strange 
a fashion, and then, taking fright, he dodged 
past Mr. Trimm and ran back the way he had 
come, as fast as his sHm brown legs could take 
him. In half a minute he was out of sight 
round a bend. 

Had the boy looked back he would have 
seen a still more curious spectacle than the 
one that had frightened him. He would have 
seen a man worth four million dollars down on 
his knees in the yellow dust, pawing with 
chained hands at the tight-fitting lid of the 
tin pail, and then, when he had got the lid off, 
drinking the fresh, warm milk which the pail 
held with great, choking gulps, uttering little 
mewing, animal sounds as he drank, while 
the white, creamy milk ran over his chin and 
splashed down his breast in little, spurting 
streams. 

But the boy didn't look back. He ran all 
the way home and told his mother he had seen 
a wild man on the road to the village; and 
later, when his father came in from the fields, 
he was soundly thrashed for letting the sight 
of a tramp make him lose a good tin bucket 
and half a gallon of milk worth six cents a 
quart. 

The rich, fresh milk put life into Mr. Trimm. 
He rested the better for it during the early 
part of that night in a haw thicket. Only 

[37] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Then Mr. Trimm, stooping low, stole back 
into the deep woods again. In his extremity 
he was ready to risk making a bid for the 
hire of a blacksmith's aid to rid himself of 
his bonds, but not a blacksmith who wore a 
deputy sheriff's badge pinned to his suspenders. 

He caught himself scraping his wrists up 
and down again against the rough, scrofulous 
trunk of a shellbark hickory. The irritation 
was comforting to the swollen skin. The 
cuffs, which kept catching on the bark and 
snagging small fragments of it loose, seemed 
to Mr. Trimm to have been a part and parcel 
of him for a long time — almost as long a time 
as he could remember. But the hands which 
they clasped so close seemed like the hands of 
somebody else. There was a numbness about 
them that made them feel as though they were 
a stranger's hands which never had belonged 
to him. As he looked at them with a sort of 
vague curiosity they seemed to swell and grow, 
these two strange, fettered hands, until they 
measured yards across, while the steel bands 
shrunk to the thinness of piano wire, cutting 
deeper and deeper into the flesh. Then the 
hands in turn began to shrink down and the 
cuffs to grow up into great, thick things as 
cumbersome as the couplings of a freight car. 
A voice that Mr. Trimm dimly recognized as 
his own was saying something about four 

million d ollars over and over again. 

[40] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Mr. Trimm roused up and shook his head 
angrily to clear it. He rubbed his eyes free 
of the clouding delusion. It wouldn't do for 
him to be getting light-headed. 

On a flat, shelving bluff, forty feet above a 
cut through which the railroad ran at a point 
about five miles north of where the collision 
had occurred, a tramp was busy, just before 
sundown, cooking something in an old wash- 
boUer that perched precariously on a fire of- 
wood coals. This tramp was tall and spindle- 
legged, with reddish hair and a pale, beardless, 
freckled face with no chin to it and not much 
forehead, so that it ran out to a peak like the 
profile of some featherless, unpleasant sort of 
fowl. The skirts of an old, ragged overcoat 
dangled grotesquely about his spare shanks. 

Desperate as his plight had become, Mr. 
Trimm felt the old sick shame at the prospect 
of exposing himself to this knavish-looking 
vagabond whose help he meant to buy with a 
bribe. It was the sight of a dainty wisp of 
smoke from the wood fire curling upward 
through the cloudy, damp air that had brought 
him limping cautiously across the right-of-way, 
to climb the rocky shelf along the cut; but now 
he hesitated, shielded in the shadows twenty 
yards away. It was a whiff of something 
savory in the washboiler, borne to him on the 
still air and almost making him cry out with 
eagerness, that drew him forth finally. At 

[411 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

the sound of the halting footsteps the tramp 
stopped stirring the mess in the washboiler 
and glanced up apprehensively. As he took in 
the figure of the newcomer his eyes narrowed 
and his pasty, nasty face spread in a grin of 
comprehension. 

"Well, well, well," he said, leering offen- 
sively, "welcome to our city, little stranger." 

Mr. Trimm came nearer, dragging his feet, 
for they were almost out of the wrecks of his 
patent-leather shoes. His gaze shifted from 
the tramp's face to the stuff on the fire, his 
nostrils wrinkling. Then slowly: "I'm in 
trouble," he said, and held out his hands. 

"Wot I'd call a mild way o' puttin' it," 
said the tramp coolly. "That purticular kind 
o' joolry ain't gen'Uy wore for pleasure." 

His eyes took on a nervous squint and roved 
past Mr. Trimm's stooped figure down the 
slope of the hillock. 

"Say, pal, how fur ahead are you of yore 
keeper?" he demanded, his manner changing. 

"There is no one after me — no one that 
I know of," explained Mr. Trimm. "I am 
quite alone — I am certain of it." 

"Sure there ain't nobody lookin' fur you?" 
the other persisted suspiciously. 

"I tell you I am all alone," protested Mr. 
Trimm. "I want your help in getting these 
— these things off and sending a message to a 
friend. You'll be well paid, very well paid. 
I can pay you more money than you ever 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

had in your life, probably, for your help. 
I can promise " 

He broke ofif, for the tramp, as if reassured 
by his words, had stooped again to his cooking 
and was stirring the bubbling contents of the 
washboiler with a peeled stick. The smell of 
the stew, rising strongly, filled Mr. Trimm with 
such a sharp and an aching hunger that he 
could not speak for a moment. He mastered 
himself, but the effort left him shaking and 
gulping. 

"Go on, then, an' tell us somethin' about 
yourself," said the freckled man. *' Wot brings 
you roamin' round this here railroad cut with 
them bracelets on.''" 

"I was in the wreck," obeyed Mr. Trimm. 
**The man with me — the officer — was killed. 
I wasn't hurt and I got away into these woods. 
But they think I'm dead too — my name was 
among the list of dead." 

The other's peaky face lengthened in aston- 
ishment. 

"Why, say," he began, "I read all about 
that there wreck — seen the list myself — say, 
you can't be Trimm, the New York banker? 
Yes, you are! Wot a streak of luck! Lemme 
look at you! Trimm, the swell financeer, 
sportin' 'round with the darbies on him all 
nice an' snug an' reg'lar ! Mister Trimm — 
well, if this ain't rich!" 

"My name is Trimm," said the starving 
banker mise rably. "I've been wandering 
[431 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

about here a great many hours — several days, 
I think it must be — and I need rest and food 
very much indeed. I don't — don't feel very 
well," he added, his voice trailing off. 

At this his self-control gave way again and 
he began to quake violently as if with an ague. 
The smell of the cooking overcame him. 

"You don't look so well an' that's a fact, 
Trimm," sneered the tramp, resuming his 
malicious, mocking air. "But set down an' 
make yourself at home, an' after a while, when 
this is done, we'll have a bite together — you 
an' me. It'll be a reg'lar tea party fur jest us 
two." 

He broke off to chuckle. His mirth made 
him appear even more repulsive than before. 

"But looky here, you wus sayin' somethin' 
about money," he said suddenly. "Le's take 
a look at all this here money." 

He came over to him and went through Mr. 
Trimm's pockets. Mr. Trimm said nothing 
and stood quietly, making no resistance. The 
tramp finished a workmanlike search of the 
banker's pockets. He looked at the result as 
it lay in his grimy palm — a moist little wad 
of bills and some chicken-feed change — and 
spat disgustedly with a nasty oath. 

"Well, Trimm," he said, "fur a Wall Street 
guy seems to me you travel purty hght. About 
how much did you think you'd get done fur 
all this pile of wealth?" 

"You will be well paid," said Mr. Trimm, 

[Hi 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

arguing hard; "my friend will see to that. 
What I want you to do is to take the money 
you have there in your hand and buy a cold 
chisel or a file — any tools that will cut these 
things off me. And then you will send a tele- 
gram to a certain gentleman in New York. 
And let me stay with you until we get an 
answer — until he comes here. He will pay 
you well; I promise it." 

He halted, his eyes and his mind again on the 
bubbling stuff in the rusted washboiler. The 
freckled vagrant studied him through his red- 
lidded eyes, kicking some loose embers back 
into the fire with his toe. 

"I've heard a lot about you one way an* 
another, Trimm," he said. "'Tain't as if you 
wuz some pore down-an'-out devil tryin' to 
beat the cops out of doin' his bit in stir. You're 
the way-up, high-an'-mighty kind of crook. 
An' from wot I've read an' heard about you 
you never toted fair with nobody yet. There 
wuz that young feller, wot's his name? — the 
cashier — him that wuz tried with you. He 
went along with you in yore games an' done 
yore work fur you an' you let him go over the 
road to the same place you're tryin' to dodge 
now. Besides," he added cunningly, "you 
come here talkin' mighty big about money, 
yet I notice you ain't carryin' much of it in 
yore clothes. All I've had to go by is yore 
word. An' yore word ain't worth much, by 

all accounts." __^__^.^___ 

[45] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"I tell you, man, that you'll profit richly," 
burst out Mr. Trimm, the words falling over 
each other in his new panic. "You must help 
me; I've endured too much — I've gone 
through too much to give up now." He 
pleaded fast, his hands shaking in a quiver of 
fear and eagerness as he stretched them out 
in entreaty and his linked chain shaking with 
them. Promises, pledges, commands, orders, 
arguments poured from him. His tormentor 
checked him with a gesture. 

"You're wot I'd call a bird in the hand," 
he chuckled, hugging his slack frame, "an* 
it ain't fur you to be givin' orders — it's fur 
me. An', anyway, I guess we ain't a-goin* 
to be able to make a trade — leastwise not on 
yore terms. But we'll do business all right, all 
right — anyhow, I will." 

"What do you mean.?*" panted Mr. Trimm, 
full of terror. "You'll help me?" 

"I mean this," said the tramp slowly. He 
put his hands under his loose-hanging over- 
coat and began to fumble at a leather strap 
about his waist. "If I turn you over to the 
Government I know wot you'll be worth, 
purty near, by guessin' at the reward; an' 
besides, it'll maybe help to square me up fur 
one or two little matters. If I turn you loose 
I ain't got nothin' only your word — an* 
I've got an idea how much faith I kin put in 
that." 

Mr. Trimm glanced about him wildly. There 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

was no escape. He was fast in a trap which 
he himself had sprung. The thought of being 
led to jail, all foul of body and fettered as 
he was, by this filthy, smirking wretch made 
him crazy. He stumbled backward with some 
insane idea of running away. 

"No hurry, no hurry a-tall," gloated the 
tramp, enjoying the torture of this helpless 
captive who had walked into his hands. "I 
ain't goin' to hurt you none — only make sure 
that you don't wander off an' hurt yourself 
while I'm gone. Won't do to let you be 
damagin' yoreself; you're valuable property. 
Trimm, now, I'll tell you wot we'll do! We'll 
just back you up agin one of these trees an' 
then we'll jest slip this here belt through 
yore elbows an' buckle it around behind at 
the back; an' I kinder guess you'll stay right 
there till I go down yonder to that station 
that I passed comin' up here an' see wot kind 
of a bargain I kin strike up with the marshal. 
Come on, now," he threatened with a show of 
bluster, reading the resolution that was mount- 
ing in Mr. Trimm's face. "Come on peaceable, 
if you don't want to git hurt." 

Of a sudden Mr. Trimm became the primi- 
tive man. He was filled with those elemental 
emotions that make a man see in spatters of 
crimson. Gathering strength from passion out 
of an exhausted frame, he sprang forward at 
the tramp. He struck at him with his head, 

his shoulders, his knees, his manacled wrists, 

_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"I tell you, man, that you'll profit richly," 
burst out Mr. Trimm, the words falling over 
each other in his new panic. "You must help 
me; I've endured too much — I've gone 
through too much to give up now." He 
pleaded fast, his hands shaking in a quiver of 
fear and eagerness as he stretched them out 
in entreaty and his linked chain shaking with 
them. Promises, pledges, commands, orders, 
arguments poured from him. His tormentor 
checked him with a gesture. 

"You're wot I'd call a bird in the hand/' 
he chuckled, hugging his slack frame, "an* 
it ain't fur you to be givin' orders — it's fur 
me. An', anyway, I guess we ain't a-goin* 
to be able to make a trade — leastwise not on 
yore terms. But we'll do business all right, all 
right — anyhow, I wiU." 

"What do you mean.'*" panted Mr. Trimm, 
full of terror. "You'll help me?" 

"I mean this," said the tramp slowly. He 
put his hands under his loose-hanging over- 
coat and began to fumble at a leather strap 
about his waist. "If I turn you over to the 
Government I know wot you'll be worth, 
purty near, by guessin' at the reward; an' 
besides, it'll maybe help to square me up fur 
one or two little matters. If I turn you loose 
I ain't got nothin' only your word — an' 
I've got an idea how much faith I kin put in 
that." 

Mr. Trimm glanced about him wildly. There 
[46l 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

was no escape. He was fast in a trap which 
he himself had sprung. The thought of being 
led to jail, all foul of body and fettered as 
he was, by this filthy, smirking wretch made 
him crazy. He stumbled backward with some 
insane idea of running away. 

"No hurry, no hurry a-tall," gloated the 
tramp, enjoying the torture of this helpless 
captive who had walked into his hands. "I 
ain't goin' to hurt you none — only make sure 
that you don't wander off an' hurt yourself 
while I'm gone. Won't do to let you be 
damagin' yoreself; you're valuable property. 
Trimm, now, I'll tell you wot we'll do! We'll 
just back you up agin one of these trees an' 
then we'll jest slip this here belt through 
yore elbows an' buckle it around behind at 
the back; an' I kinder guess you'll stay right 
there till I go down yonder to that station 
that I passed comin' up here an' see wot kind 
of a bargain I kin strike up with the marshal. 
Come on, now," he threatened with a show of 
bluster, reading the resolution that was mount- 
ing in Mr. Trimm's face. " Come on peaceable, 
if you don't want to git hurt." 

Of a sudden Mr. Trimm became the primi- 
tive man. He was filled with those elemental 
emotions that make a man see in spatters of 
crimson. Gathering strength from passion out 
of an exhausted frame, he sprang forward at 
the tramp. He struck at him with his head, 
his shoulders, his knees, his manacled wrists, 
fiTJ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

all at once. Not really hurt by the puny 
assault, but caught by surprise, the freckled 
man staggered back, clawmg at the air, tripped 
on the washboiler in the fire, and with a yell 
vanished below the smooth edge of the cut. 

Mr. Trimm stole forward and looked over 
the bluff. Half-way down the cliff on an out- 
cropping shelf of rock the man lay, face down- 
ward, motionless. He seemed to have grown 
smaller and to have shrunk into his clothes. 
One long, thin leg was bent up under the skirts 
of the overcoat in a queer, twisted way, and 
the cloth of the trouser leg looked flattened 
and empty. As Mr. Trimm peered down at 
him he saw a red stain spreading on the rock 
under the still, silent figure's head. 

Mr. Trimm turned to the washboiler. It 
lay on its side, empty, the last of its recent 
contents sputtering out into the half-drowned 
fire. He stared at this ruin a minute. Then 
without another look over the cliff edge he 
stumbled slowly down the hill, muttering to 
himself as he went. Just as he struck the level 
it began to rain, gently at first, then hard, 
and despite the shelter of the full-leaved forest 
trees, he was soon wet through to his skin 
and dripped water as he lurched along without 
sense of direction or, indeed, without any 
active realization of what he was doing. 

Late that night it was still raining — a cold, 
steady, autumnal downpour. A huddled figure 
[481 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

slowly climbed upon a low fence running about 
the house-yard of the little farm where the boy 
lived who got thrashed for losing a milkpail. 
On the wet top rail, precariously perching, the 
figure slipped and sprawled forward in the 
miry yard. It got up, painfully swaying on 
its feet. It was Mr. Trimm, looking for food. 
He moved slowly toward the house, tottering 
with weakness and because of the slick mud 
underfoot; peering near-sightedly this way and 
that through the murk; starting at every sound 
and stopping often to listen. 

The outlines of a lean-to kitchen at the back 
of the house were looming dead ahead of him 
when from the corner of the cottage sprang a 
small terrier. It made for Mr. Trimm, bark- 
ing shrilly. He retreated backward, kicking 
at the little dog and, to hold his balance, strik- 
ing out with short, dabby jerks of his fettered 
hands — they were such motions as the terrier 
itself might make trying to walk on its hind- 
legs. Still backing away, expecting every 
instant to feel the terrier's teeth in his flesh, 
Mr. Trimm put one foot into a hotbed with 
a great clatter of the breaking glass. He felt 
the sharp ends of shattered glass tearing and 
cutting his shin as he jerked free. Recov- 
ering himself, he dealt the terrier a lucky 
kick under the throat that sent it back, yowl- 
ing, to where it had come from, and then, as 
a door jerked open and a half -dressed man 
jumped out into the darkness, Mr. Trimm 
[491 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

half hobbled, half fell out of sight behind the 
woodpile. 

Back and forth along the lower edge of his 
yard the farmer hunted, with the whimpering, 
cowed terrier to guide him, poking in dark 
corners with the muzzle of his shotgun for the 
unseen intruder whose coming had aroused 
the household. In a brushpile just over the 
fence to the east Mr. Trimm lay on his face 
upon the wet earth, with the rain beating down 
on him, sobbing with choking gulps that 
wrenched him cruelly, biting at the bonds on 
his wrists until the sound of breaking teeth 
gritted in the air. Finally, in the hopeless, 
helpless frenzy of his agony he beat his arms up 
and down until the bracelets struck squarely 
on a flat stone and the force of the blow sent 
the cufiFs home to the last notch so that they 
pressed harder and faster than ever upon the 
tortured wrist bones. 

When he had wasted ten or fifteen minutes 
in a vain search the farmer went shivering back 
indoors to dry out his wet shirt. But the 
groveling figure in the brushpile lay for a long 
time where it was, only stirring a little while 
the rain dripped steadily down on everything. 

The wreck was on a Tuesday evening. Early 
on the Saturday morning following the chief 
of police, who was likewise the whole of the day 
police force in the town of Westfield, nine miles 
from the place where the collision occurred, 
[50l 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

heard a peculiar, strangely weak knocking at 
the front door of his cottage, where he also had 
his office. The door was a Dutch door, sawed 
through the middle, so that the top half might 
be opened independently, leaving the lower 
panel fast. He swung this top half back. 

A face was framed in the opening — an 
indescribably dirty, unutterably weary face, 
with matted white hair and a rime of whitish 
beard stubble on the jaws. It was fallen in 
and sunken and it drooped on the chest of its 
owner. The mouth, swollen and pulpy, as if 
from repeated hard blows, hung agape, and 
between the purplish parted lips showed the 
stumps of broken teeth. The eyes blinked 
weakly at the chief from under lids as colorless 
as the eyelids of a corpse. The bare white 
head was filthy with plastered mud and twigs, 
and dripping wet. 

"Hello, there!" said the chief, startled at 
this apparition. "What do you want?" 

With a movement that told of straining 
effort the lolled head came up off the chest. 
The thin, corded neck stiffened back, rising 
from a dirty, collarless neckband. The Adam's 
apple bulged out prominently, as big as a 
pigeon's egg. 

"I have come," said the specter in a wheezing 
rasp of a voice which the chief could hardly 
hear — "I have come to surrender myself. I 
am Hobart W. Trimm." 

"I guess you got another think comin*,** 
[511 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

said the chief, who was by way of being a 
neighborhood wag. "When last seen Hobart 
W. Trimm was only fifty-two years old. Be- 
sides which, he's dead and buried. I guess 
maybe you'd better think agin, grandpap, and 
see if you ain't Methus'lah or the Wanderin* 
Jew." 

"I am Hobart W. Trimm, the banker," 
whispered the stranger with a sort of wan 
stubbornness. 

"Go on and prove it," suggested the chief, 
more than willing to prolong the enjoyment of 
the sensation. It wasn't often in Westfield 
that wandering lunatics came a-calling. 

"Got any way to prove it?" he repeated as 
the visitor stared at him. 

"Yes," came the creaking, rusted hinge of 
a voice, "I have." 

Slowly, with struggling attempts, he raised 
his hands into the chief's sight. They were 
horribly swollen hands, red with the dried blood 
where they were not black with the dried dirt; 
the fingers puffed up out of shape; the nails 
broken; they were like the skinned paws of a 
bear. And at the wrists, almost buried in the 
bloated folds of flesh, blackened, rusted, bat- 
tered, yet still strong and whole, was a tightly- 
locked pair of Bean's Latest Model Little Giant 
handcuffs. 

"Great God!" cried the chief, transfixed at 
the sight. He drew the bolt and jerked open 

the lo wer half of the door. 

[52] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"Come in," he said, "and lemme get them 
irons off of you — they must hurt something 
terrible." 

"They can wait," said Mr. Trimm very 
feebly, very slowly and very humbly. "I 
have worn them a long, long while — I am 
used to them. Wouldn't you please get me 
some food first?" 



[53] 



n 

THE BELLED BUZZARD 



THERE was a swamp known as Little 
Niggerwool, to distinguish it from Big 
Niggerwool, which lay across the river. 
It was traversable only by those who 
knew it well — an oblong stretch of tawny 
mud and tawny water, measuring maybe four 
miles its longest way and two miles roughly 
at its widest; and it was full of cypress and 
stunted swamp oak, with edgings of canebrake 
and rank weeds; and in one place, where a 
ridge crossed it from side to side, it was snag- 
gled like an old jaw with dead tree trunks, 
rising close-ranked and thick as teeth. It 
was untenanted of living things — except, 
down below, there were snakes and mosqui-, 
toes, and a few wading and swimming fowl;" 
and up above, those big woodpeckers that the 
country people called logcocks — larger than 
pigeons, with flaming crests and spiky tails — 
swooping in their long, loping flight from snag 
to snag, always just out of gunshot of the 
' [ET] 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

chance invader, and uttering a strident cry 
which matched those surroundings so fitly 
that it might well have been the voice of the 
swamp itself. 

On one side Little Niggerwool drained its 
saffron waters off into a sluggish creek, where 
summer ducks bred, and on the other it ended 
abruptly at a natural bank of high ground, 
along which the county turnpike ran. The 
swamp came right up to the road and thrust 
its fringe of reedy, weedy undergrowth forward 
as though in challenge to the good farm lands 
that were spread beyond the barrier. At the 
time I am speaking of it was midsummer, and 
from these canes and weeds and waterplants 
there came a smell so rank as almost to be 
overpowering. They grew thick as a curtain, 
making a blank green wall taller than a man's 
head. 

Along the dusty stretch of road fronting the 
swamp nothing living had stirred for half an 
hour or more. And so at length the weed- 
stems rustled and parted, and out from among 
them a man came forth silently and cautiously. 
He was an old man — an old man who had 
once been fat, but with age had grown lean 
again, so that now his skin was by odds too 
large for him. It lay on the back of his neck 
in folds. Under the chin he was pouched like 
a pelican and about the jowls was wattled 
like a turkey gobbler. 

He came out upon t he road slowly and 
[66] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

stopped there, switching his legs absently 
with the stalk of a horseweed. He was in his 
shirtsleeves — a respectable, snuffy old figure; 
evidently a man deliberate in words and 
thoughts and actions. There was something 
about him suggestive of an old staid sheep 
that had been engaged in a clandestine trans- 
action and was afraid of being found out. 

He had made amply sure no one was in sight 
before he came out of the swamp, but now, 
to be doubly certain, he watched the empty 
road — first up, then down — for a long half 
minute, and fetched a sighing breath of satis- 
faction. His eyes fell upon his feet, and, 
taken with an idea, he stepped back to the edge 
of the road and with a wisp of crabgrass wiped 
his shoes clean of the swamp mud, which was 
of a different color and texture from the soil 
of the upland. All his life Squire H. B. 
Gathers had been a careful, canny man, and 
he had need to be doubly careful on this summer 
morning. Having disposed of the mud on his 
feet, he settled his white straw hat down 
firmly upon his head, and, crossing the road, 
he climbed a stake-and-rider fence laboriously 
and went plodding sedately across a weedfield 
and up a slight slope toward his house, half a 
mile away, upon the crest of the little hill. 

He felt perfectly natural — not like a man 
who had just taken a fellowman's life — but 
natural and safe, and well satisfied with him- 
self and with his morning's work. And he was 
[56l 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

safe; that was the main thing — absolutely 
safe. Without hitch or hindrance he had done 
the thing for which he had been planning and 
waiting and longing all these months. There 
had been no slip or mischance; the whole 
thing had worked out as plainly and simply 
as two and two make four. No living creature 
except himself knew of the meeting in the 
early morning at the head of Little Niggerwool^ 
exactly where the squire had figured they 
should meet; none knew of the device by which 
the other man had been lured deeper and 
deeper in the swamp to the exact spot where 
the gun was hidden. No one had seen the two 
of them enter the swamp; no one had seen 
the squire emerge, three hours later, alone. 

The gun, having served its purpose, was hid- 
den again, in a place no mortal eye would 
ever discover. Face downward, with a hole 
between his shoulderblades, the dead man was 
lying where he might lie undiscovered for 
months or for years, or forever. His pedler's 
pack was buried in the mud so deep that not 
even the probing crawfishes could find it. 
He would never be missed probably. There 
was but the slightest likelihood that inquiry 
would ever be made for him — let alone a 
search. He was a stranger and a foreigner, 
the dead man was, whose comings and goings 
made no great stir in the neighborhood, and 
whose failure to come again would be taken as 
a matter of course — just one of those shift- 
[57] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

^s, wandering Dagoes, here today and gone 
tomorrow. That was one of the best things 
about it — these Dagoes never had any people 
in this country to worry about them or look 
for them when they disappeared. And so it 
was all over and done with, and nobody the 
wiser. The squire clapped his hands together 
briskly with the air of a man dismissing a 
subject from his mind for good, and mended 
his gait. 

He felt no stabbings of conscience. On 
the contrary, a glow of gratification filled him. 
His house was saved from scandal; his present 
wife would philander no more — before his 
very eyes — with these young Dagoes, who 
came from nobody knew where, with packs on 
their backs and persuasive, wheedling tongues 
in their heads. At this thought the squire 
liaised Ms head and considered his homestead. 
It looked good to him — the small white 
cottage among the honey locusts, with beehives 
and flower beds about it; the tidy whitewashed 
fence; the sound outbuildings at the back, 
and the well-tilled acres roundabout. 

At the fence he halted and turned about, 
carelessly and casually, and looked back along 
the way he had come. Everything was as 
it should be — the weedfield steaming in the 
heat; the empty road stretching along the 
crooked ridge like a long gray snake sunning 
itself; and beyond it, massing up, the dark, 
cloaking stretch of swamp. Everything was 
[5S] 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

all right, but The squire's eyes, in their 

loose sacs of skin, narrowed and squinted. 
Out of the blue arch away over yonder a small 
black dot had resolved itself and was swinging 
to and frOj hke a mote. A buzzard — hey? 
Well, there were always buzzards about on a 
clear day like this. Buzzards were nothing 
to worry about — almost any time you could 
see one buzzard, or a dozen buzzards if you 
were a mind to look for them. 

But this particular buzzard now — wasn't 
he making for Little Niggerwool? The squire 
did not like the idea of that. He had not 
thought of the buzzards until this minute. 
Sometimes when cattle strayed the owners 
had been known to follow the buzzards, know- 
ing mighty well that if the buzzards led the 
way to where the stray was, the stray would 
be past the small salvage of hide and hoofs — 
but the o\VTier's doubts would be set at rest 
for good and all. 

There was a grain of disquiet in this. The 

squire shook his head to drive the thought 

awav — yet it persisted, coming back like a 

jaidge dancing before his face. Once at home, 

however. Squire Gathers deported himself in a 

perfectly normal manner. With the satisfied 

proprietorial eye of an elderly husband who 

has no rivals, he considered his young wife, 

busied about her household duties. He sat 

in an easy-chair upon his front gallery and read 

his yesterday's Courier-Journal which the rural 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

carrier had brought him; but he kept stepping 
out into the yard to peer up into the sky and 
all about him. To the second Mrs. Gathers 
he explained that he was looking for weather 
signs. A day as hot and still as this one was a 
regular weather breeder; there ought to be 
rain before night. 

"Maybe so,'* she said; "but looking's not 
going to bring rain.'* 

Nevertheless the squire continued to look. 
There was really nothing to worry about; still 
at midday he did not eat much dinner, and 
before his wife was half through with hers he 
was back on the gallery. His paper was cast 
aside and he was watching. The original 
buzzard — or, anyhow, he judged it was the 
first one he had seen — was swinging back and 
forth in great pendulum swings, but closer 
down toward the swamp — closer and closer — 
imtil it looked from that distance as though 
the buzzard flew almost at the level of the 
tallest snags there. And on beyond this first 
buzzard, coursing above him, were other buz- 
zards. Were there four of them? No; there 
were five — five in all. 

Such is the way of the buzzard — that 
shifting black question mark which punctuates 
a Southern sky. In the woods a shoat or a 
sheep or a horse lies down to die. At once, 
coming seemingly out of nowhere, appears a 
black spot, up five hundred feet or a thousand 
in the air. In broad loops and swirls this dot 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

swings round and round and round, coming a 
little closer to earth at every turn and always 
with one particular spot upon the earth for 
the axis of its wheel. Out of space also other 
moving spots emerge and grow larger as they 
tack and jibe and drop nearer, coming in their 
leisurely buzzard way to the feast. There 
is no haste — the feast will wait. If it is a 
dumb creature that has fallen stricken the 
grim coursers will sooner or later be assembled 
about it and alongside it, scrouging ever closer 
and closer to the dying thing, with awkward 
out-thrustings of their naked necks and great 
dust-raising flaps of the huge, unkempt wings; 
lifting their feathered shanks high and stiffly 
like old crippled grave-diggers in overalls that 
are too tight — but silent and patient all, 
offering no attack until the last tremor runs 
through the stiffening carcass and the eyes 
glaze over. To humans the buzzard pays a 
deeper meed of respect — he hangs aloft longer; 
but in the end he comes. No scavenger shark, 
no carrion crab, ever chambered more grisly 
secrets in his digestive processes than this 
big charnel bird. Such is the way of the 
buzzard. 

The squire missed his afternoon nap, a thing 
that had not happened in years. He stayed 
on the front gallery and kept count. Those 
moving distant black specks typified uneasi- 
ness for the squire — n ot fear exactly, or panic 
[61] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

or anything akin to it, but a nibbling, nagging 
kind of uneasiness. Time and again he said 
to himself that he would not think about them 
any more; but he did — unceasingly. 

By supper time there were seven of them. 

He slept light and slept badly. It was not 
the thought of that dead man lying yonder 
in Little Niggerwool that made him toss 
and fume while his wife snored gently along- 
side him. It was something else altogether. 
Finally his stirrings roused her and she asked 
him drowsily what ailed him. Was he sick? 
Or bothered about anything? 

Irritated, he answered her snappishly. Cer- 
tainly nothing was bothering him, he told her. 
It was a hot enough night — wasn't it? And 
when a man got a little along in life he was apt 
to be a light sleeper — wasn't that so? Well, 
then? She turned upon her side and slept 
again with her light, purring snore. The 
squire lay awake, thinking hard and waiting 
for day to come. 

At the first faint pink-and-gray glow he was 
up and out upon the gallery. He cut a comic 
figure standing there in his shirt in the half 
light, with the dewlap at his throat dangling 
grotesquely in the neck opening of the un- 
buttoned garment, and his bare bowed legs 
showing, splotched and varicose. He kept 
his eyes fixed on the skyline below, to the south. 
Buzzards are early risers too. Presently, as 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

the heavens shimmered with the miracle of 
sunrise, he could make them out — six or 
seven, or maybe eight. 

An hour after breakfast the squire was on 
his way down through the weedfield to the 
county road. He went half eagerly, half 
imwillingly. He wanted to make sure about 
those buzzards. It might be that they were 
aiming for the old pasture at the head of the 
swamp. There were sheep grazing there — and 
it might be that a sheep had died. Buzzards 
were notoriously fond of sheep, when dead. 
Or, if they were pointed for the swamp, he 
must satisfy himself exactly what part of the 
swamp it was. He was at the stake-and-rider 
fence when a mare came jogging down the road, 
drawing a rig with a man in it. At sight of 
the squire in the field the man pulled up. 

"Hi, squire!'* he saluted. "Goin' some- 
wheres.f'" 

"No; jest knockin* about," the squire 
said — "jest sorter lookin' the place over." 

"Hot agin — ain't it?" said the other. 

The squire allowed that it was, for a fact, 
mighty hot. Commonplaces of gossip followed 
this — county politics and a neighbor's wife 
sick of breakbone fever down the road a piece. 
The subject of crops succeeded inevitably. 
The squire spoke of the need of rain. Instantly 
he regretted it, for the other man, who was by 
way of being a weather wiseacre, cocked hi3 head 
aloft to study the sky for any signs of clouds. 
1631 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"Wonder whut all them buzzards are doin' 
yonder, squire," he said, pointing upward with 
Ids whipstock. 

*'Whut buzzards — where?" asked the squire 
with an elaborate note of carelessness in his 
voice. 

"Right j'^onder, over Little Niggerwool — see 
*em there?" 

"Oh, yes," the squire made answer. "Now 
I see 'em. They ain't doin' nothin*, I reckin 

— jest flyin' round same as they always do in 
clear weather." 

"Must be somethin' dead over there!" 
speculated the man in the buggy. 

"A hawg probably," said the squire promptly 

— almost too promptly. "There's likely to 
be hawgs usin' in Niggerwool. Bristow, over 
on the other side from here — he's got a big 
drove of hawgs." 

"Well, mebbe so," said the man; "but 
hawgs is a heap more apt to be feedin' on high 
^ound, seems like to me. Well, I'll be gittin' 
along towards town. G'day, squire." And 
lie slapped the lines down on the mare's flank 
and jogged off through the dust. 

He could not have suspected anything — 

that man couldn't. As the squire turned away 

from the road and headed for his house he 

congratulated himself upon that stroke of his 

in bringing in Bristow's hogs; and yet there 

remained this disquieting note in the situation, 

that buzzards flying, and especially buzzards 
_ 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

flying over Little Niggerwool, made people 
curious — made them ask questions. 

He was half-way across the weedfield when, 
above the hum of insect life, above the inward 
clamor of his own busy speculations, there came 
to his ear dimly and distantly a sound that 
made him halt and cant his head to one side 
the better to hear it. Somewhere, a good way 
off, there was a thin, thready, broken strain 
of metallic clinking and clanking — an eery 
ghost-chime ringing. It came nearer and be- 
came plainer — tonk-tonk-tonk; then the tonks 
all running together briskly. 

A sheep bell or a cowbell — that was it; but 
why did it seem to come from overhead, from 
up in the sky, like? And why did it shift so 
abruptly from one quarter to another — from 
left to right and back again to left? And how 
was it that the clapper seemed to strike so fast? 
Not even the breachiest of breachy young 
heifers could be expected to tinkle a cowbell 
with such briskness. The squire's eye searched 
the earth and the sky, his troubled mind giving 
to his eye a quick and flashing scrutiny. He 
had it. It was not a cow at all. It was not 
anything that went on four legs. 

One of the loathly flock had left the others. 
The orbit of his swing had carried him across 
the road and over Squire Gathers' land. He 
was sailing right toward and over the squire 
now. Craning his flabby neck, the squire 
could make out the unwholesome contour of 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

the huge bird. He could see the ragged black 
wings — a buzzard's wings are so often ragged 
and uneven — and the \iaked throat; the 
slim, naked head; the big feet folded up against 
the dingy belly. And he could see a bell too 
— an under-sized cowbell — that dangled at the 
creature's breast and jangled incessantly. All 
his life nearly Squire Gathers had been hearing 
about the Belled Buzzard. Now with his own 
eye he was seeing him. 

Once, years and years and years ago, some 
one trapped a buzzard, and before freeing it 
clamped about its skinny neck a copper band 
with a cowbell pendent from it. Since then 
the bird so ornamented has been seen a hundred 
times — and heard oftener — over an area 
as wide as half the continent. It has been 
reported, now in Kentucky, now in Texas, 
now in North Carolina — now anywhere be- 
tween the Ohio River and the Gulf. Cross- 
roads correspondents take their pens in hand 
to write to the country papers that on such 
and such a date, at such a place, So-and-So 
saw the Belled Buzzard. Always it is the 
Belled Buzzard, never a belled buzzard. The 
Belled Buzzard is an institution. 

There must be more than one of them. It 
seems hard to believe that one bird, even a 
buzzard in his prime, and protected by law in 
every Southern state and known to be a bird 
of great age, could live so long and range so 
far and wear a clinking cowbell all the time! 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

Probably other jokers have emulated the 
original joker; probably if the truth were 
known there have been a dozen such; but the 
country people will have it that there is only 
one Belled Buzzard — a bird that bears a 
charmed life and on his neck a never silent 
bell. 

Squire Gathers regarded it a most untoward 
thing that the Belled Buzzard should have 
come just at this time. The movements of 
ordinary, unmarked buzzards mainly con- 
cerned only those whose stock had strayed; 
but almost anybody with time to spare might 
follow this rare and famous visitor, this belled 
and feathered junkman of the sky. Supposing 
now that some one followed it today — maybe 
followed it even to a certain thick clump of 
cypress in the middle of Little Niggerwool! 

But at this particular moment the Belled 
Buzzard was heading directly away from that 
quarter. Could it be following him.f* Of 
course not! It was just by chance that it flew 
along the course the squire was taking. But, 
to make sure, he veered off sharply, away from 
the footpath into the high weeds so that the 
startled grasshoppers sprayed up in front of 
him in fan-like flights. 

He was right; it was only a chance. The 

Belled Buzzard swung off too, but in the 

opposite direction, with a sharp tonking of its 

bell, and, flapping hard, was in a minute or 

[671 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

two out of hearing and sight, past the trees 
to the westward. 

Again the squire skimped his dinner, and 
again he spent the long drowsy afternoon 
upon his front gallery. In all the sky there 
were now no buzzards visible, belled or unbelled 
— they had settled to earth somewhere; and 
this served somewhat to soothe the squire's pes- 
tered mind. This does not mean, though, that 
he was by any means easy in his thoughts. 
Outwardly he was calm enough, with the rumi- 
native judicial air befitting the oldest justice 
of the peace in the county; but, within him, 
a little something gnawed unceasingly at his 
nerves Uke one of those small white worms that 
are to be found in seemingly sound nuts. 
About once in so long a tiny spasm of the 
muscles would contract the dewlap under his 
chin. The squire had never heard of that 
play, made famous by a famous player, wherein 
the murdered victim was a pedler too, and 
a clamoring bell the voice of unappeasable 
remorse in the murderer's ear. As a strict 
churchgoer the squire had no use for players or 
for play actors, and so was spared that added 
canker to his conscience. It was bad enough 
as it was. 

That night, as on the night before, the old 
man's sleep was broken and fitful and dis- 
turbed by dreaming, in which he heard a metal 
clapper striking against a brazen surface. 
This was one dream that came true. Just 
1681 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

after daybreak he heaved himself out of bed, 
with a flop of his broad bare feet upon the floor, 
and stepped to the window and peered out. 
Half seen in the pinkish light, the Belled Buz- 
zard flapped directly over his roof and flew 
due south, right toward the swamp — drawing 
a direct line through the air between the slayer 
and the victim — or, anyway, so it seemed to 
the watcher, grown suddenly tremulous. 

Knee deep in yellow swamp water the squire 
squatted, with his shotgun cocked and loaded 
and ready, waiting to kill the bird that now 
typified for him guilt and danger and an abid- 
ing great fear. Gnats plagued him and about 
him frogs croaked. Almost overhead a log- 
cock clung lengthwise to a snag, watching him. 
Snake doctors, limber, long insects with bronze 
bodies and filmy wings, went back and forth 
like small living shuttles. Other buzzards 
passed and repassed, but the squire waited, 
forgetting the cramps in his elderly limbs and 
the discomfort of the water in his shoes. 

At length he heard the bell. It came nearer 

and nearer, and the Belled Buzzard swung 

overhead not sixty feet up, its black bulk a fair 

target against the blue. He aimed and fired, 

both barrels bellowing at once and a fog of 

thick powder smoke enveloping him. Through 

the smoke he saw the bird careen and its bell 

jangled furiously; then the buzzard righted 

itself and was gone , fleeing so fast that the 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

sound of its bell was hushed almost instantly. 
Two long wing feathers drifted slowly down; 
torn disks of gunwadding and shredded green 
scraps of leaves descended about the squire in 
a little shower. 

He cast his empty gun from him so that it 
fell in the water and disappeared; and he 
hurried out of the swamp as fast as his shaky 
legs would take him, splashing himself with 
mire and water to his evebrows. Mucked wi.th 
mud, breathing in great gulps, trembling, a 
suspicious figure to any eye, he burst through 
the weed curtain and staggered into the open, 
his caution all gone and a vast desperation 
fairly choking him — but the gray road was 
empty and the field beyond the road was 
empty; and, except for him, the whole world 
seemed empty and silent. 

As he crossed the field Squire Gathers com- 
posed himself. With plucked handfuls of grass 
he cleansed himself of much of the swamp mire 
that coated him over; but the little white 
worm that gnawed at his nerves had become a 
cold snake that was coiled about his heart, 
squeezing it tighter and tighter! 

This episode of the attempt to kill the Belled 
Buzzard occurred in the afternoon of the third 
day. In the forenoon of the fourth, the weather 
being still hot, with cloudless skies and no air 
stirring, there was a rattle of warped wheels 
in the squir e's lane and a hail at his yard fence^ 
[70] 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

Coming out upon his gallery from the innermost 
darkened room of his house, where he had been 
stretched upon a bed, the squire shaded his 
eyes from the glare and saw the constable of 
his own magisterial district sitting in a buggy 
at the gate waiting. 

The old man went down the dirtpath slowly, 
almost reluctantly, with his head twisted up 
sidewise, listening, watching; but the con- 
stable sensed nothing strange about the other's 
gait and posture; the constable was full of 
the news he brought. He began to unload the 
burden of it without preamble. 

"Mornin', Squire Gathers. There's been a 
dead man found in Little Niggerwool — and 
you're wanted." 

He did not notice that the squire was holding 
on with both hands to the gate; but he did 
notice that the squire had a sick look out of 
his eyes and a dead, pasty color in his face; 
and he noticed — but attached no meaning 
to it — that when the squire spoke his voice 
seemed flat and hollow. 

"Wanted — fur — whut.?" The squire 
forced the words out of his throat, pumped 
them out fairly. 

"Why, to hold the inquest," explained the 
constable. "The coroner's sick abed, and he 
said you bein' the nearest jestice of the peace 
you should serve." 

" Oh," said the squire with more ease. " Well, 

where is it — the body?" 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"They taken it to Bristow's place and put 
it in his stable for the present. They brought 
it out over on that side and his place was the 
nearest. If you'll hop in here with me, squire, 
I'll ride you right over there now. There's 
enough men already gathered to make up a 
jury, I reckin." 

"I — I ain't well," demurred the squire. 
"I've been sleepin' porely these last few nights. 
It's the heat," he added quickly. 

"Well, suh, you don't look very brash, and 
that's a fact," said the constable; "but this 
here job ain't goin' to keep you long. You see 
it's in such shape — the body is — that there 
ain't no way of makin' out who the feller 
was nor whut killed him. There ain't nobody 
reported missin' in this county as we know of, 
either; so I jedge a verdict of a unknown 
person dead from unknown causes would be 
about the correct thing. And we kin git it all 
over mighty quick and put him underground 
right away, suh — if you'll go along now." 

"I'll go," agreed the squire, almost quivering 
in his newborn eagerness. "I'll go right now." 
He did not wait to get his coat or to notify 
his wife of the errand that was taking him. 
In his shirtsleeves he climbed into the buggy, 
and the constable turned his horse and clucked 
him into a trot. And now the squire asked the 
question that knocked at his lips demanding to 
be asked — the question the answer to which 

he yearned for and yet dreaded. 

1721 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

"How did they come to find — it?" 

"Well, suh, that's a funny thing," said 
the constable. "Early this mornin' Bristow's 
oldest boy — that one they call Buddy — he 
beared a cowbell over in the swamp and so he 
went to look; Bristow's got cows, as you know, 
and one or two of 'em is belled. And he kept 
on followin' after the sound of it till he got way 
down into the thickest part of them cypress 
slashes that's near the middle there; and 
right there he run acrost it — this body. 

"But, suh, squire, it wasn't no cow at all. 
No, suh; it was a buzzard with a cowbell on 
his neck — that's whut it was. Yes, suh; 
that there same old Belled Buzzard he's come 
back agin and is hangin' round. They tell 
me he ain't been seen round here sence the year 
of the yellow fever — I don't remember myself, 
but that's whut they tell me. The niggers 
over on the other side are right smartly worked 
up over it. They say — the niggers do — 
that when the Belled Buzzard comes it's a sign 
of bad luck for somebody, shore!" 

The constable drove on, talking on, garru- 
lous as a guinea hen. The squire didn't heed 
him. Hunched back in the buggy, he harkened 
only to those busy inner voices filling his mind 
with thundering portents. Even so, his ear 
was first to catch above the rattle of the 
buggy wheels the far-away, faint tonk-tonk! 
They were about half-way to Bristow's place 
then. H e gave no sign, and it was perhaps 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

half a minute before his companion heard 
it too. 

The constable jerked the horse to a stand- 
still and craned his neck over his shoulder. 

"Well, by doctors!" he cried, "if there ain't 
the old scoundrel now, right here behind us! 
I kin see him plain as day — he's got an old 
cowbell hitched to his neck; and he's shy a 
couple of feathers out of one wing. By doctors, 
that's somethin' vqu won't see evsry d^tyl la 
all my bom days I ain't never seen the beat of 
that!" 

Squire Gathers did not look; he only cowered 
back farther under the buggy top. In the 
pleasing excitement of the moment his com- 
panion took no heed, though, of anything 
except the Belled Buzzard. 

"Is he folio win' us?" asked the squire in a 
curiously flat, weighted voice. 

"Which — him?" answered the constable, 
still stretching his neck. "No, he's gone now 
— gone off to the left — jest a-zoonin', Uke 
he'd done forgot somethin'." 

And Bristow's place was to the left! But 
there might still be time. To get the inquest 
over and the body underground — those were 
the main things. Ordinarily humane in his 
treatment of stock. Squire Gathers urged the 
constable to greater speed. The horse was 
lathered and his sides heaved wearily as they 
pounded across the bridge over the creek which 
was the outlet to the swamp and emerged from 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

a patch of woods in sight of Bristow's farm 
buildings. 

The house was set on a little hill among 
cleared fields and was in other respects much 
like the squire's own house except that it was 
smaller and not so well painted. There was 
a wide yard in front with shade trees and a lye 
hopper and a well-box, and a paling fence with 
a stile in it instead of a gate. At the rear, 
behind a clutter of outbuildings — a bam, a 
smokehouse and a corncrib — was a httle 
peach orchard, and flanking the house on the 
right there was a good-sized cowyard, empty 
of stock at this hour, with feedracks ranged in 
a row against the fence. A two-year-old negro 
child, bareheaded and barefooted and wearing 
but a single garment, was grubbing busily in 
the dirt under one of these feedracks. 

To the front fence a dozen or more riding 
horses were hitched, flicking their tails at the 
flies; and on the gallery men in their shirt- 
sleeves were grouped. An old negro woman, 
with her head tied in a bandanna and a man's 
old slouch hat perched upon the bandanna, 
peeped out from behind a comer. There were 
gaunt hound dogs wandering about, sniffing 
imeasily. 

Before the constable had the horse hitched 

the squire was out of the buggy and on his 

way up the footpath, going at a brisker step 

than the squire usually traveled. The men 

on the porch hailed him gravely and ceremo- 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

niously, as befitting an occasion of solemnity. 
Afterward some of them recalled the look in 
his eye; but at the moment they noted it — 
if they noted it at all — subconsciously. 

For all his haste the squire, as was also 
remembered later, was almost the last to enter 
the door; and before he did enter he halted and 
searched the flawless sky as though for signs 
of rain. Then he hurried on after the others, 
who clumped single file along a narrow little 
hall, the bare, uncarpeted floor creaking loudly 
under their heavy farm shoes, and entered a 
good-sized room that had in it, among other 
things, a high-piled feather bed and a cottage 
organ — Bristow's best room, now to be placed 
at the disposal of the law's representatives 
for the inquest. The squire took the largest 
chair and drew it to the very center of the 
room, in front of a fireplace, where the grate 
was banked with withering asparagus ferns. 
The constable took his place formally at one 
side of the presiding ofiicial. The others sat 
or stood about where they could find room — 
all but six of them, whom the squire picked for 
his coroner's jury, and who backed themselves 
against the wall. 

The squire showed haste. He drove the 
preliminaries forward with a sort of tremulous 
insistence. Bristow's wife brought a bucket 
of fresh drinking water and a gourd, and 
almost before she was out of the room and the 
door closed behind her the squire had sworn his 
[761 



I 



THE BELLED BUZZARD 

jurors and was calling the first witness, who it 
seemed likely would also be the only witness 
— Bristow's oldest boy. The boy wriggled 
in confusion as he sat on a cane-bottomed 
chair facing the old magistrate. All there, 
barring one or two, had heard his story a dozen 
times already, but now it was to be repeated 
under oath; and so they bent their heads, 
listening as though it were a brand-new tale. 
All eyes were on him; none were fastened on 
the squire as he, too, gravely bent his head, 
listening — listening. 

The witness began — but had no more than 
started when the squire gave a great, screech- 
ing howl and sprang from his chair and stag- 
gered backward, his eyes popped and the 
pouch under his chin quivering as though it 
had a separate life all its own. Startled, the 
constable made toward him and they struck 
together heavily and went down — both on 
their all fours — right in front of the fireplace. 

The constable scrambled free and got upon 
his feet, in a squat of astonishment, with his 
head craned; but the squire stayed upon the 
floor, face downward, his feet flopping among 
the rustling asparagus greens — a picture of 
slavering animal fear. And now his gagging 
screech resolved itself into articulate speech. 

"I done it!" they made out his shrieked 

words. "I done it! I own up — I killed him! 

He aimed fur to break up my home and I 

tolled him off into Niggerwool and killed him! 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

There's a hole in his back if you'll look fur it. 
I done it — oh, I done it — and I'll tell every- 
thing jest like it happened if you'll jest keep 
that thing away from me! Oh, my Lawdy! 
Don't you hear it? It's a-comin' clos'ter and 
clos'ter — it's a-comin' after me ! Keep it 

away " His voice gave out and he buried 

his head in his hands and rolled upon the 
gaudy carpet. 

And now they all heard what he had heard 
first — they heard the tonk-tonk-tonk of a 
cowbell, coming near and nearer toward them 
along the hallway without. It was as though 
the sound floated along. There was no creak 
of footsteps upon the loose, bare boards — 
and the bell jangled faster than it would 
dangling from a cow's neck. The sound 
came right to the door and Squire Gathers 
wallowed among the chair legs. 

The door swung open. In the doorway 
stood a negro child, barefooted and naked 
except for a single garment, eyeing them with 
serious, rolling eyes — and, with all the strength 
of his two puny arms, proudly but solemnly 
tolUng a small rusty cowbell he had found in 
the cowyard. 



78] 



m 

!AN OCCURRENCE UP, A 

SIDE STREET 



SEE if lie's still there, will you?" said 
the man listlessly, as if knowing in 
advance what the answer would be. 
The woman, who, like the man, was 
in her stocking feet, crossed the room, closing 
the door with all softness behind her. She 
felt her way sUently through the darkness of a 
small hallway, putting first her ear and then 
her eye to a tiny cranny in some thick curtains 
at a front window. 

She looked downward and outward upon one 
of those New York side streets that is precisely 
like forty other New York side streets: two 
unbroken hues of high-shouldered, narrow- 
chested brick-and-stone houses, rising in abrupt, 
straight cliffs; at the bottom of the canyon a 
narrow river of roadway with manholes and 
conduit covers dotting its channel intermit- 
tently like scattered stepping stones; and on 
[791 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

either side wide, flat pavements, as though the 
stream had fallen to low-water mark and 
left bare its shallow banks. Daylight would 
have shown most of the houses boarded up, 
with diamond-shaped vents, like leering eyes, 
cut in the painted planking of the windows and 
I doors; but now it was night time — eleven 
o'clock of a wet, hot, humid night of the late 
summer — and the street was buttoned down 
its length in the double-breasted fashion of a 
bandmaster's coat with twin rows of gas lamps 
evenly spaced. Under each small circle of 
lighted space the dripping, black asphalt had 
a slimy, slick look like the sides of a newly 
caught catfish. Elsewhere the whole vista 
lay all in close shadow, black as a cave mouth 
under every stoop front and blacker still in 
the hooded basement areas. Only, half a mile 
to the eastward a dim, distant flicker showed 
where Broadway ran, a broad, yellow streak 
down the spine of the city, and high above 
the broken skyline of eaves and cornices there 
rolled in cloudy waves the sullen red radiance, 
bom of a million electrics and the flares from 
gas tanks and chimneys, which is only to be 
seen on such nights as this, giving to the heaven 
above New York that same color tone you find 
in an artist's conception of Babylon falling or 
Rome burning. 

From where the woman stood at the window 
she could make out the round, white, mush- 
room top of a policeman's summer helmet as 
fiol 



UP A SIDE STREET 

its wearer leaned back, half sheltered under 
the narrow portico of the stoop just below her; 
and she could see his uniform sleeve and his 
hand, covered with a white cotton glove, come 
up, carrying a handkerchief, and mop the 
hidden face under the helmet's brim. The 
squeak of his heavy shoes was plainly audible 
to her also. While she stayed there, watch- 
ing and listening, two pedestrians — and only 
two — passed on her side of the street : a 
messenger boy in a glistening rubber poncho 
going west and a man under an umbrella going 
east. Each was hurrying along until he came 
just opposite her, and then, as though con- 
trolled by the same set of strings, each stopped 
short and looked up curiously at the blind, dark 
house and at the figure lounging in the doorway, 
then hurried on without a word, leaving the 
silent policeman fretfully mopping his moist 
face and tugging at the wilted collar about 
his neck. 

After a minute or two at her peephole behind 
the window curtains above, the woman passed 
back through the door to the inner, middle 
room where the man sat. 

"Still there," she said lifelessly in the half 

whisper that she had come to use almost 

altogether these last few days; "still there 

and sure to stay there until another one just 

like him comes to take his place. What else 

did you expect.?" 

The man only nodded absently and went on 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

peeling an overripe peach, striking out con- 
stantly, with the hand that held the knife, at 
the flies. They were green flies — huge, shiny- 
backed, buzzing, persistent vermin. There 
were a thousand of them; there seemed to be 
a million of them. They filled the shut-in 
room with their vile humming; they swarmed 
everywhere in the half light. They were 
thickest, though, in a corner at the back, where 
there was a closed, white door. Here a great 
knot of them, like an iridescent, shimmering 
jewel, was clustered about the keyhole. They 
scrolled the white enameled panels with intri- 
cate, shifting patterns, and in pairs and singly 
they promenaded busily on the white porcelain 
knob, giving it the appearance of being alive 
and having a motion of its own. 

It was stiflingly hot and sticky in the room. 
The sweat rolled down the man's face as he 
peeled his peach and pared some half-rotted 
spots out of it. He protected it with a cupped 
palm as he bit into it. One huge green fly 
flipped nimbly under the fending hand and lit 
on the peach. With a savage little snarl of 
disgust and loathing the man shook the cling- 
ing insect off and with the knife carved away 
the place where its feet had touched the soft 
fruit. Then he went on munching, meanwhile 
furtively watching the woman. She was on 
the opposite side of a small center-table from 
him, with her face in her hands, shaking her 
head with a little shuddering motion whenever 
[821 



UP A SIDE STREET 

one of the flies settled on her close-cropped hair 
or brushed her bare neck. 

He was a smallish man, with a suggestion of 
something dapper about him even in his present 
unkempt disorder; he might have been hand- 
some, in a weakly effeminate way, had not 
Nature or some mishap given his face a twist 
that skewed it all to one side, drawing all of 
his features out of focus, like a reflection viewed 
in a flawed mirror. He was no heavier than 
the woman and hardly as tall. She, however, 
looked less than her real height, seeing that 
she was dressed, like a half -grown boy, in a 
soft-collared shirt open at the throat and a 
pair of loose trousers. She had large but 
rather regular features, pouting lips, a clear 
brown skin and full, prominent brown eyes; 
and one of them had a pronounced cast in 
it — an imperfection already made familiar 
by picture and printed description to sundry 
millions of newspaper readers. For this was 
Ella Gilmorris, the woman in the case of the 
Gilmorris murder, about which the continent 
of North America was now reading and talking. 
And the little man with the twisted face, who 
sat across from her, gnawing a peach stone 
clean, was the notorious "Doctor" Harris 
Devine, alias Vanderburg, her accomplice, and 
worth more now to society in his present untidy 
state than ever before at any one moment of 
his whole discreditable life, since for his capture 
the people of the state of New York stood 
[83] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

willing to pay the sum of one thousand dollars, 
which tidy reward one of the afternoon papers 
had increased by another thousand. 

Everywhere detectives — amateurs and the 
kind who work for hire — were seeking the 
pair who at this precise moment faced each 
other across a little center-table in the last 
place any searcher would have suspected or 
expected them to be — on the second floor of 
the house in which the late Cassius Gilmorris 
had been killed. This, then, was the situation: 
inside, these two fugitives, watchful, silent, 
their eyes red-rimmed for lack of sleep, their 
nerves raw and tingling as though rasped with 
files, each busy with certain private plans, each 
fighting off constantly the touch of the nasty 
scavenger flies that flickered and flitted iri- 
descently about them; outside, in the steamy, 
hot drizzle, with his back to the locked and 
double-locked door, a leg-weary policeman, 
believing that he guarded a house all empty 
except for such evidences as yet remained of 
the Gilmorris murder. 

It was one of those small, chancy things that 
so often disarrange the best laid plots of mur- 
derers that had dished their hope of a clean 
getaway and brought them back, at the last, 
to the starting point. If the plumber's helper, 
who was sent to cure a bathtub of leaking in 
the house next door, had not made a mistake 
and come to the wrong number; and if they. 
Till 



UP A SIDE STREET 

in the haste of flight, had not left an area door 
unfastened ; and if this young plumbing appren- 
tice, stumbling his way upstairs on the hunt 
for the misbehaving drain, had not opened the 
white enameled door and found inside there 
what he did find — if this small sequence of 
incidents had not occurred as it did and when 
it did, or if only it had been delayed another 
twenty-four hours, or even twelve, everything 
might have turned out differently. But fate, 
to call it by its fancy name — coincidence, to 
use its garden one — interfered, as it usually 
does in cases such as this. And so here they 
were. 

The man had been on his way to the steam- 
ship office to get the tickets when an eruption 
of newsboys boiled out of Mail Street into 
Broadway, with extras on their arms, all shout- 
ing out certain words that sent him scurrying 
back in a panic to the small, obscure family 
hotel in the lower thirties where the woman 
waited. From that moment it was she, really, 
who took the initiative in all the efforts to 
break through the doubled and tripled lines 
that the police machinery looped about the 
five boroughs of the city. 

At dark that evening "Mr. and Mrs. A. 
Thompson, of Jersey City," a quiet couple 
who went closely muffled up, considering that 
it was August, and carrying heavy valises, 
took quarters at a dingy furnished room house 
on a miscalled avenue of Broo klyn not far 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

from the Wall Street ferries and overlooking 
the East River waterfront from its bleary back 
windows. Two hours later a very different-look- 
ing pair issued quietly from a side entrance of 
this place and vanished swiftly down toward the 
docks. The thing was well devised and carried 
out well too; yet by morning the detectives, 
already ranging and quartering the town as 
bird-dogs quarter a brier-field, had caught 
up again and pieced together the broken ends 
of the trail; and, thanks to them and the 
newspapers, a good many thousand wideawake 
persons were on the lookout for a plump, brown- 
skinned young woman with a cast in her right 
eye, wearing a boy's disguise and accompanied 
by a slender little man carrying his head slightly 
to one side, who when last seen wore smoked 
glasses and had his face extensively bandaged, 
as though suffering from a toothache. 

Then had followed days and nights of blind 
twisting and dodging and hiding, with the hunt 
growing warmer behind them all the time. 
Through this they were guided and at times 
aided by things printed in the very papers 
that worked the hardest to run them down. 
Once they ventured as far as the outer entrance 
of the great, new uptown terminal, and turned 
away, too far gone and sick with fear to dare 
run the gauntlet of the waiting room and the 
train-shed. Once — because they saw a made- 
up Central Office man in every lounging long- 
shoreman, and were not so far wrong either — 
[86l 



UP A SIDE STREET 




they halted at the street end of one of the 
smaller piers and from there watched a grimy 
little foreign boat that carried no wireless 
masts and that might have taken them to any 
one of half a dozen obscure banana ports of 
South America — watched her while she hic- 
coughed out into midstream and straightened 
down the river for the open bay — watched 
her out of sight and then fled again to their 
newest hiding place in the lower East Side 
in a cold sweat, with the feeling that every 
casual eye glance from every chance passer-by 
carried suspicion and recognition in its flash, 
that every briskening footstep on the pave- 
ment behind them meant pursuit. 

Once in that tormented journey there was a 
sudden jingle of metal, like rattling handcuffs, 
in the man's ear and a heavy hand fell detain- 
ingly on his shoulder — and he squeaked like 
a caught shore-bird and shrunk away from 
under the rough grips of a truckman who had 
yanked him clear of a lurching truck horse 
tangled in its own traces. Then, finally, had 
come a growing distrust for their latest land- 
lord, a stolid Russian Jew who read no papers 
and knew no English, and saw in his pale pair 
of guests only an American lady and gentle- 
man who kept much to their room and paid 
well in advance for everything; and after 
that, in the hot rainy night, the flight afoot 
across weary miles of soaking cross streets 
and up through ill-lighted, shabby avenues 
[871 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

to the one place of refuge left open to them. 
They had learned from the newspapers, at 
once a guide and a bane, a friend and a dogging 
enemy, that the place was locked up, now that 
the police had got through searching it, and 
that the coroner's people held the keys. And 
the woman knew of a faulty catch on a rear 
cellar window, and so, in a fit of stark despera- 
tion bordering on lunacy, back they ran, like 
a pair of spent foxes circling to a burrow from 
which they have been smoked out. 

Again it was the woman who picked for her 
companion the easiest path through the inky- 
black alley, and with her own hands she pulled 
down noiselessly the broken slats of the rotting 
wooden wall at the back of the house. And 
then, soon, they were inside, with the reeking 
heat of the boxed-up house and the knowledge 
that at any moment discovery might come 
bursting in upon them — inside with their 
busy thoughts and the busy green flies. How 
persistent the things were — shake them off a 
hundred times and back they came buzzing! 
And where had they all come from? There 
had been none of them about before, surely, 
and now their maddening, everlasting droning 
filled the ear. And what nasty creatures they 
were, forever cleaning their shiny wings and 
rubbing the ends of their forelegs together 
with the loathsome suggestion of little grave- 
diggers anointing their palms. To the woman, 

at least, these flies almost made bearable the 
_ 



UP A SIDE STREET 

realization that, at best, this stopping point 
could be only a temporary one, and that within 
a few hours a fresh start must somehow be 
made, with fresh dangers to face at every 
turning. 



It was during this last hideous day of flight 
and terror that the thing which had been grow- 
ing in the back part of the brain of each of 
them began to assume shape and a definite 
aspect. The man had the craftier mind, but 
the woman had a woman's intuition, and she 
already had read his thoughts while yet he 
had no clue to hers. For the primal instinct 
of self-preservation, blazing up high, had 
burned away the bond of bogus love that held 
them together while they were putting her 
drunkard of a husband out of the way, and 
now there only remained to tie them fast this 
partnership of a common guilt. 

In these last few hours they had both come 

to know that together there was no chance of 

ultimate escape; traveling together the very 

disparity of their compared appearances marked 

them with a fatal and unmistakable con- 

spicuousness, as though they were daubed with 

red paint from the same paint brush; staying 

together meant ruin — certain, sure. Now, 

then, separated and going singly, there might 

be a thin strand of hope. Yet the man felt 

that, parted a single hour from the woman, 

and she still alive, his wofully small pro spect 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

would diminish and shrink to the vanishing 
point — New York juries being most notoriously 
easy upon women murderers who give them- 
selves up and turn state's evidence; and, by 
the same mistaken processes of judgment, 
notoriously hard upon their male accomplices 
— half a dozen such instances had been play- 
ing in flashes across his memory already. 

Neither had so much as hinted at separat- 
ing. The man didn't speak, because of a 
certain idea that had worked itself all out 
hours before within his side-flattened skull. 
The woman likewise had refrained from putting 
in words the suggestion that had been upper- 
most in her brain from the time they broke 
into the locked house. Some darting look of 
quick, malignant suspicion from him, some 
inner warning sense, held her mute at first; 
and later, as the newborn hate and dread of 
him grew and mastered her and she began to 
canvass ways and means to a certain end, she 
stayed mute still. 

Whatever was to be done must be done 
quietly, without a struggle — the least sound 
might arouse the policeman at the door below. 
One thing was in her favor — she knew he was 
not armed; he had the contempt and the 
fear of a tried and proved poisoner for cruder 
lethal tools. 

It was characteristic also of the difference 
between these two that Devine should have 
had his plan stage-set and put to motion long 
[90] 



UP A SIDE STREET 



before the woman dreamed of acting. It was 
all within his orderly scheme of the thing 
proposed that he, a shrinking coward, should 
have set his squirrel teeth hard and risked 
detection twice in that night: once to buy a 
basket of overripe fruit from a dripping Italian 
at a sidewalk stand, taking care to get some 
peaches — he just must have a peach, he had 
explained to her; and once again when he 
entered a dark little store on Second Avenue, 
where liquors were sold in their original pack- 
ages, and bought from a sleepy, stupid clerk 
two bottles of a cheap domestic champagne — 
"to give us the strength for making a fresh 
start," he told her glibly, as an excuse for tak- 
ing this second risk. So, then, with the third 
essential already resting at the bottom of an 
inner waistcoat pocket, he was prepared; and 
he had been waiting for his opportunity from 
the moment when they crept in through the 
basement window and felt their way along, she 
resolutely leading, to the windowless, shrouded 
middle room here on the second floor. 

How she hated him, feared him too!- He 
could munch his peaches and uncork his warm, 
cheap wine in this very room, with that bath- 
room just yonder and these flies all about. 
From under her fingers, interlaced over her 
forehead, her eyes roved past him, searching 
the littered room for the twentieth time in the 
hour, looking, seeking — and suddenly they 
[911 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

fell on sometliing — a crushed and rumpled 
hat of her own, a milliner's masterpiece, laden 
with florid plumage, lying almost behind him 
on a couch end where some prying detective 
had dropped it, with a big, round black button 
shining dully from the midst of its damaged 
tulle crown. She knew that button well. It 
was the imitation- jet head of a hatpin — a 
steel hatpin — that was ten inches long and 
maybe longer. 

She looked and looked at the round, dull 
knob, like a mystic held by a hypnotist's 
crystal ball, and she began to breathe a little 
faster; she could feel her resolution tighten 
within her like a turning screw. 

Beneath her brows, heavy and thick for a 
woman's, her eyes flitted back to the man. 
With the careful affectation of doing nothing at 
all, a theatricalism that she detected instantly, 
but for which she could guess no reason, he 
was cutting away at the damp, close-gnawed 
seed of the peach, trying apparently to fashion 
some little trinket — a toy basket, possibly 
— from it. His fingers moved deftly over its 
slick, wet surface. He had already poured 
out some of the champagne. One of the pint 
bottles stood empty, with the distorted button- 
headed cork lying beside it, and in two glasses 
the yellow wine was fast going flat and dead in 
that stifling heat. It stiU spat up a few little 
bubbles to the surface, as though minute 
creatures were drowning in it down below. 



UP A SIDE STREET 



The man was sweating more than ever, so that, 
mider the single, low- turned gas jet, his crooked 
face had a greasy shine to it. A church clock 
down in the next block struck twelve slowly. 
The sleepless flies buzzed evilly. 

"Look out again, won't you.''" he said for 
perhaps the tenth time in two hours. "There's 
a chance, you know, that he might be gone — 
just a bare chance. And be sure you close 
the door into the hall behind you," he added 
as if by an afterthought. "You left it ajar 
once — this light might show through the 
window draperies." 

At his bidding she rose more willingly than 
at any time before. To reach the door she 
passed within a foot of the end of the couch, 
and watching over her shoulder at his hunched- 
up back she paused there for the smallest frac- 
tion of time. The damaged picture hat slid 
off on the floor with a soft little thud, but he 
never turned around. 

The instant, though, that the hall door closed 
behind her the man's hands became briskly 
active. He fumbled in an inner pocket of his 
unbuttoned waistcoat; then his right hand, 
holding a small cylindrical vial of a colorless 
liquid, passed swiftly over one of the two 
glasses of slaking champagne and hovered 
there a second. A few tiny globules fell 
dimpling into the top of the yellow wine, then 
vanished; a heavy reek, like the smell of 
crushed peach kernels, spread through the 
[93] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

whole room. In the same motion almost he 
recorked the little bottle, stowed it out of sight, 
and with a quick, wrenching thrust that bent 
the small blade of his penknife in its socket he 
split the peach seed in two lengthwise and 
with his thumb-nail bruised the small brown 
kernel lying snugly within. He dropped the 
knife and the halved seed and began sipping 
at the undoctored glass of champagne, not 
forgetting even then to wave his fingers above 
it to keep the winged green tormentors out. 

The door at the front reopened and the 
woman came in. Her thoughts were not upon 
smells, but instinctively she sniffed at the 
thick scent on the poisoned air. 

"I accidentally split this peach seed open,'* 
he said quickly, with an elaborate explanatory 
air. "Stenches up the whole place, don't it? 
Come, take that other glass of champagne — 
it will do you good to " 

Perhaps it was some subtle sixth sense that 
warned him; perhaps the lightning-quick reali- 
zation that she had moved right alongside him, 
poised and set to strike. At any rate he 
started to fling up his head — too late! The 
needle point of the jet-headed hatpin entered 
exactly at the outer corner of his right eye and 
passed backward for nearly its full length into 
his brain — smoothly, painlessly, swiftly. He 
gave a little surprised gasp, almost like a sob, 
and lolled his head back against the chair rest, 
like a man who has grown suddenly tired. The 



UP A SIDE STREET 



hand that held the champagne glass relaxed 
naturally and the glass turned over on its side 
with a small tinkling sound and spilled its 
thin contents on the table. 

It had been easier than she had thought it 
would be. She stepped back, still holding the 
hatpin. She moved around from behind him, 
and then she saw his face, half upturned, almost 
directly beneath the low Hght. There was no 
blood, no sign even of the wound, but his jaw 
had dropped down unpleasantly, showing the 
ends of his lower front teeth, and his eyes 
stared up unwinkingly with a puzzled, almost 
a disappointed, look in them. A green fly lit 
at the outer corner of his right eye; more green 
flies were coming. And he didn't put up his 
hand to brush it away. He let it stay — he 
let it stay there. 

With her eyes still fixed on his face, the 
woman reached out, feeling for her glass of 
the champagne. She felt that she needed it 
now, and at a gulp she took a good half of it 
down her throat. 

She put the glass down steadily enough on 
the table; but into her eyes came the same 
puzzled, baflBed look that his wore, and almost 
gently she slipped down into the chair facing 
him. 

Then her jaw lolled a little too, and some of 
the other flies came buzzing toward her. 



[95] 



IV 

ANOTHER'OF THOSE CUB 
REPORTER STORIES 



THE first time I saw Major Putnam 
Stone I didn't see him first. To be 
exact, I heard him first, and then I 
walked round the end of a seven-foot 
partition and saw him. 

I had just gone to work for the Evening Press. 
As I recall now it was my second day, and I 
hadn't begun to feel at home there yet, and 
probably was more sensitive to outside sights 
and noises than I would ever again be in that 
place. Generally speaking, when a reporter 
settles down to his knitting, which in his case 
is his writing, he becomes impervious to all 
disturbances excepting those that occur inside 
his own brainpan. If he couldn't, he wouldn't 
amount to shucks in his trade. Give him a 
good, Uve-action story to write for an edition 
going to press in about nine minutes, and the 
rattles and slams of half a dozen typewriting 
machi nes, and the blattings of a pestered city 
[961 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

editor, and the gabble of a couple of copy boys 
at his elbow, and all the rest of it won't worry 
him. He may not think he hears it, but he 
does, only instead of being distracting it is 
stimulating. It's all a part of the mechanism 
of the shop, helping him along unconsciously to 
speed and efficiency. I've often thought that, 
when I was handling a good, bloody murder 
story, say, it would tone up my style to have 
a phonograph about ten feet away grinding out 
The Last Ravings of John McCullough. Any- 
way, I am sure it wouldn't do any harm. A 
brass band playing a John Philip Sousa march 
makes fine accompaniment to write copy to. 
I've done it before now, covering parades and 
conventions, and I know. 

But on this particular occasion I was, as I 
say, new to the job and maybe a little nervous 
to boot, and as I sat there, trying to frame a 
snappy opening paragraph for the interview I 
had just brought back with me from one of 
the hotels, I became aware of a voice somewhere 
in the immediate vicinity, a voice that didn't 
jibe in with my thoughts. At the moment I 
stopped to listen it was saying: "As for me, 
sir, I have always contended that the ultimate 
fate of the cause was due in great measure to 
the death of Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh 
on the evening of the first day's fight. Now 
then, what would have been the final result 
if Albert Sidney Johnston had lived? I ask 

you, gentlemen, what would have been the 
_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

final result if Albert Sidney Johnston had 
lived?" 

Across the room from me I heard Devore 
give a hollow groan. His desk was backed 
right up against the cross partition, and the 
partition was built of thin pine boards and was 
like a sounding board in his ear. Devore was 
city editor. 

"Oh, thunder!" he said, half under his 
breath, "I'll be the goat! What would have 
been the result if Albert Sidney Johnston had 
lived?" He looked at me and gave a wink of 
serio-comic despair, and then he ran his blue 
pencil up through his hair and left a blue 
streak like a scar on his scalp. Devore was one 
of the few city editors I have ever seen who 
used that tool which all of them are popularly 
supposed to handle so murderously — a blue 
pencil. And as he had a habit, when he was 
flustered or annoyed — and that was most of 
the time — of scratching his head with the 
point end of it, his forehead under the hair 
roots was usually streaked with purplish-blue 
tracings, like a fly-catcher's egg. 

The voice, which had a deep and space-filling 
quality to it, continued to come through and 
over the partition that divided off our cubby- 
hole of a workroom — called a city room by 
courtesy — from the space where certain other 
members of the staff had their desks. I got 
up from my place and stepped over to where 
the thin wall ended in a doorway, being minded 
[98] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

to have a look at tlie speaker. The voice 
sounded as though it must belong to a big man 
with a barrel-organ chest. I was surprised to 
find that it didn't. 

Its owner was sitting in a chair in the middle 
of a little space cluttered up with discarded 
exchanges and galley proofs. He was rather 
a small man, short but compact. He had his 
hat off and his hair, which was thin but fine 
as silk floss, was combed back over his ears 
and sprayed out behind in a sort of mane 
effect. It had been red hair once, but was now 
so thickly streaked with white that it had 
become a faded brindle color. I took notice 
of this first because his back was toward me; 
in a second or two he turned his head sideways 
and I saw that he had exactly the face to 
m^atch the hair. It was a round, plump, elderly 
face, with a short nose, delicately pink at the 
tip. The eyes were a pale blue, and just under 
the lower lip, which protruded slightly, was 
a small gray-red goatee, sticking straight out 
from a cleft in the chin like a dab of a sandy 
sheep's wool. Also, as the speaker swung 
himself further round, I took note of a shirt of 
plaited white linen billowing out over his chest 
and ending at the top in a starchy yet rumply 
collar that rolled majestically and Byronically 
clear up under his ears. Under the collar was 
loosely knotted a black-silk tie such as sailors 
wear. His vest was unbuttoned, all except the 
two lowerm ost buttons, and the sleeves of his 
[991 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

coat were turned back neatly off his wrists. 
This, though, could not have been on account 
of the heat, because the weather wasn't very 
hot yet. I learned later that, winter or 
summer, he always kept his coat sleeves turned 
back and the upper buttons of his vest un- 
fastened. His hands were small and plump, 
and his feet were small too and daintily shod 
in low, square-toed shoes. About the whole 
man there was an air somehow of full-bloomed 
foppishness gone to tassel — as though having 
been a dandy once, he was now merely neat 
and precise in his way of dress. 

He was talking along with the death of Albert 
Sidney Johnston for his subject, not seeming 
to notice that his audience wasn't deeply 
interested. He had, it seemed, a way of stat- 
ing a proposition as a fact, as an indisputable, 
everlasting, eternal fact, an immutable thing. 
It became immutable through his way of 
stating it. Then he would frame it in the form 
of a question and ask it. Then he would 
answer it himself and go right ahead. 

Boynton, the managing editor, was coiled 
up at his desk, wearing a look of patient endur- 
ance on his face. Harty, the telegraph editor, 
was trying to do his work — trying, I say, 
because the orator was booming away like a 
bittern within three feet of him and Harty 
plainly was pestered and fretful. Really the 
only person in sight who seemed entertained 
was Sidle y, the exchange editor, a young man 
[1001 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

with hair that had turned white before its time 
and in his eye the devil-driven look of a man 
who drinks hard, not because he wants to drink 
but because he can't help drinking. Sidley, 
as I was to find out later, had less cause to 
care for the old man than anybody about the 
shop, for he used to disarrange Sidley's neatly 
piled exchanges, pawing through them for his 
favorite papers. But Sidley could forget his 
own grievances in watchful enjoyment of the 
dumb sufferings of Harty, whom he hated, as 
I came to know, with the blind hate a dipso- 
maniac often has for any mild and perfectly 
harmless individual. 

As I stood there taking in the picture, the 
speaker, sensing a stranger's presence, faced 
clear about and saw me. He nodded with a 
grave courtesy, and then paused a moment as 
though expecting that one of the others would 
introduce us. None of the others did introduce 
us though, so he went ahead talking about 
Albert Sidney Johnston's death, and I turned 
away. I stopped by Devore's desk. 

"Who is he.?" I asked. 

"That," he said, with a kind of leashed and 
restrained ferocity in his voice, "is Major 
Putnam P. Stone — and the P stands for Pest, 
which is his middle name — late of the Southern 
Confederacy." 

"Picturesque-looking old fellow, isn't he.'^'* 
I said. 

"Picturesque old nu isance," he said, and 
[101] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

jabbed at his scalp with his pencil as though 
he meant to puncture his skull. "Wait until 
you've been here a few weeks and you'll have 
another name for him." 

"Well, anyway, he's got a good carrying 
voice," I said, rather at a loss to understand 
Devore's bitterness. 

"Great," he mocked venomously; "you can 
hear it a mile. I hear it in my sleep. So will 
you when you get to know him, the old bore!" 

In due time I did get to know Major Stone 
well. He was dignified, tiresome, conversa- 
tional, gentle mannered and, I think, rather 
lonely. By driblets, a scrap here and a scrap 
there, I learned something about his private 
life. He came from the extreme eastern end 
of the state. He belonged to an old family. 
His grandfather — or maybe it was his great- 
grand-uncle — had been one of the first United 
States senators that went to Washington after 
our state was admitted into the Union. He 
had never married. He had no business or 
profession. From some property or other he 
drew an income, small, but enough to keep him 
in a sort of simple and genteel poverty. He 
belonged to the best club in town and the most 
exclusive, the Shawnee Club, and he had served 
four years in the Confederate army. That 
last was the one big thing in his life. To the 
major's conceptions everything that happened 
before 1861 had been of a preparatory nature, 
leading up to and paving the way for the main 
[102] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

event; and what had happened since 1865 
was of no consequence, except in so far as it 
reflected the ejffects of the Civil War. 

Daily, as methodically as a milkwagon horse, 
he covered the same route. First he sat in 
the reading room of the old Gaunt House, 
where by an open fire in winter or by an open 
window in summer he discussed the blunders 
of Braxton Bragg and similar congenial topics 
with a little group of aging, fading, testy 
veterans. On his way to the Shawnee Club 
he would come by the Evening Press oflfice 
and stay an hour, or two hours, or three hours, 
to go away finally with a couple of favored 
exchanges tucked under his arm, and leave us 
with our ears still dinned and tingling. Once 
in a while of a night, passing the Gaunt House 
on my way to the boarding house where I 
lived — for four dollars a week — I would see 
him through the windows, sometimes sitting 
alone, sometimes with one of his cronies. 

Round the office he sometimes bothered us 
and sometimes he interfered with our work; 
but mainly all the men on the staff liked him, 
I think, or at least we put up with him. In 
our home town each of us had known somebody 
very much like him — there used to be at least 
one Major Stone in every community in the 
South, although most of them are dead now, 
I guess — so we all could understand him. 
When I say all I mean all but Devore. The 
major's m ere presence would poison Devore's 
[1031 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

whole day for him. The major's blaring notes 
would cross-cut Devore's nerves as with a dull 
and haggling saw. He — Devore I mean — 
disliked the major with a dislike almost too 
deep for words. It had got to be an obsession 
with him. 

"You fellows that were bom down here have 
to stand for him," he said once, when the 
major had stumped out on his short legs after 
an unusually long visit. "It's part of the 
penalty you pay for belonging in this country. 
But I don't have to venerate him and fuss over 
him and listen to him. I'm a Yankee, thank 
the Lord!" Devore came from Michigan and 
had worked on papers in Cleveland and Detroit 
before he drifted South. "Oh, we've got his 
counterpart up my way," he went on. "Up 
there he'd be a pension-grabbing old kicker, 
ready to have a fit any time anybody wearing 
a gray uniform got within ninety miles of him, 
and writing red-hot letters of protest to the 
newspapers every time the state authorities 
sent a captured battle flag back down South. 
Down here he's a pompous, noisy old fraud, too 
proud to work for a hving — or too lazy — 
and too poor to count for anything in this world. 
The difference is that up in my country we've 
squelched the breed — we got good and tired 
of these professional Bloody Shirt wavers a 
good while ago; but here you fuss over this 
man, and you'll sit round and pretend to listen 
while he drools away about things that hap- 
[104] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

pened before any one of you was born. Do 
you fellows know what I've found out about 
your Major Putnam Stone? He's a life member 
of the Shawnee Club — a life member, mind 
you! And here I've been living in this town 
over a year, and nobody ever so much as 
invited me inside its front door!" 

All of which was, perhaps, true, even though 
Devore had an unnecessarily harsh way of 
stating the case; the part about the Shawnee 
Club was true, at any rate, and I used to think 
it possibly had something to do with Devore's 
feelings for Major Stone. Not that Devore 
gave open utterance to his feelings to the 
major's face. To the major he was always 
silently polite, with a little edging of ice on 
his politeness; he saved up his spleen to spew 
it out behind the old fellow's back. Farther 
than that he couldn't well afford to go anyhow. 
The Chief, owner of the paper and its editor, 
was the major's friend. As for the major 
himself, he seemed never to notice Devore's 
attitude. For a fact, I believe he actually felt 
a sort of pity for Devore, seeing that Devore 
had been born in the North. Not to have been 
born in the South was, from the major's way of 
looking at the thing, a great and regrettable 
misfortune for which the victim could not be 
held responsible, since the fault lay with his 
parents and not with him. By way of a suitable 
return for this, Devore spent many a spare 
moment th inking up grotesque yet wickedly 
[105] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

appropriate nicknames for the major. He 
called him Old First and Second Manassas 
and Old Hardee's Tactics and Old Valley of 
Virginia. He called him an old bluffer too. 

He was wrong there, though, certainly. 
Though the major talked pretty exclusively 
about the war, I took notice that he rarely 
talked about the part he himself had played 
in it. Indeed, he rarely discussed anybody 
below the rank of brigadier. The errors of 
Hood's campaign concerned him more deeply 
than the personal performances of any indi- 
vidual. Campaigns you might say were his 
specialty, campaigns and strategy. About such 
things as these he could talk for hours — and 
he did. 

I've known other men — plenty of them — 
not nearly so well educated as the major, who 
could tell you tales of the war that would 
make you see it — yes, and smell it too — the 
smoke of the campfires, the unutterable fatigue 
of forced marches when the men, with their 
tongues lolling out of their mouths like dogs, 
staggered along, panting like dogs; the bloody 
prints of unshod feet on flinty, frozen clods; 
the shock and fearful joy of the fighting; the 
shamed numbness of retreats; artillery horses, 
their hides all blood-boltered and their tails 
clubbed and clotted with mire, lying dead with 
stiff legs between overturned guns; dead men 
piled in heaps and living men huddled in 
panics — all of it. But when the major talked 
[1061 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

I saw only some serious-minded oflScers, in 
whiskers of an obsolete cut and queer-looking 
shirt collars, poring over maps round a table 
in a farmhouse parlor. When he chewed on 
the cud of the vanished past it certainly was 
mighty dry chewing. 

There came a day, a few weeks after I went 
to work for the Evening Press, when for once 
anyway the major didn't seem to have anything 
to say. It was in the middle of a blistering, 
smothering hot forenoon in early June, muggy 
and still and close, when a fellow breathing 
felt as though he had his nose buried in layers 
of damp cotton waste. The city room was a 
place fit to addle eggs, and from the composing 
room at the back the stenches of melting metals 
and stale machine oils came rolling in to us in 
nasty waves. With his face glistening through 
the trickling sweat, the major came in about 
ten o'clock, fanning himself with his hat, and 
when he spoke his greeting the booming note 
seemed all melted and gone out of his voice. 
He went through the city room into the room 
behind the partition, and passing through a 
minute later I saw him sitting there with one 
of Sidley's exchanges unfolded across his knee, 
but he wasn't reading it. Presently I saw him 
climbing laboriously up the stairs to the second 
floor where the chief had his oflSce. At quitting 
time that afternoon I dropped into the place 
on the corner for a beer, and I was drinking it, 
as close to an electric fan as I could get, when 
' [ToT] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Devore came in and made for where I was 
standing. I asked him to have something. 

"I'll take the same," he said to the man 
behind the bar, and then to me with a kind 
of explosive snap: "By George, I'm in a good 
mind to resign thisrotten job!" That didn't 
startle me. I had been in the business long 
enough to know that the average newspaper 
man is forever threatening to resign. Most 
of them — to hear them talk — are always 
just on the point of throwing up their jobs 
and buying a good-paying country weekly 
somewhere and taking things easy for the rest 
of their lives, or else they're going into maga- 
zine work. Only they hardly ever do it. So 
Devore's threat didn't jar me much. I'd 
heard it too often. 

"TVliat's the trouble?" I asked. "Heat 
getting on your nerves?" 

"No, it's not the heat," he said peevishly; 
"it's worse than the heat. Do you know 
what's happened? The chief has saddled Old 
Signal Corps on me. Yes, sir, I've got to take 
his old pet, the major, on the city staff. It 
seems he's succeeded in losing what little 
property he had — the chief told me some rig- 
marole about sudden financial reverses — and 
now he's down and out. So I'm elected. I've 
got to take him on as a reporter — a cub 
reporter sixty-odd years old, mind you, who 
hasn't heard of anything worth while since 
Robert E. Lee surrendered!" 
[1081 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

The pathos of the situation — if you could 
call it that — hit me with a jolt; but it hadn't 
hit Devore, that was plain. He saw only the 
annoying part of it. 

"What's he going to do?" I asked — "assign- 
ments, or cover a route like the district men?'* 

"Lord knows," said Devore. "Because the 
old bore knows a lot of big people in this town 
and is friendly with all the old-timers in the 
state, the chief has a wild delusion that he can 
pick up a lot of stuff that an ordinary reporter 
wouldn't get. Rats! 

"Come on, let's take another beer," he said, 
and then he added: "Well, I'll just make 
you two predictions. He'll be a total loss as 
a reporter — that's one prediction; and the 
other is that he'll have a hard time buying his 
provender and his toddies over at the Shawnee 
Club on the salary he'll draw down from the 
Evening Press." 

Devore was not such a very great city editor, 
as I know now in the light of fuller experience, 
but I must say that as a prophet he was fairly 
accurate. The major did have a hard time 
living on his salary — it was twelve a week, 
I learned — and as a reporter he certainly was 
not what you would call a dazzling success. 
He came on for duty at eight the next morn- 
ing, the same as the rest of us, and sorry as I 
felt for him I had to laugh. He had bought 
himself a leather-backed notebook as big as a 

young ledg er, just as a green kid just out of 
-_ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

high school would have done, and he had a 
long, new, shiny, freshly sharpened lead pencil 
sticking out of the breast pocket of his coat. 
He tried to come in smartly with a businesslike 
air, but it wouldn't have fooled a blind man, 
because he was as nervous as a debutante. It 
struck me as one of the funniest things — and 
one of the most pathetic — I had ever seen. 

I'll say this for Devore — he tried out the 
major on nearly every kind of job; and surely 
it wasn't Devore's fault that the major failed 
on every single one of them. His first attempt 
was as typical a failure as any of them. That 
first morning Devore assigned him to cover a 
wedding at high noon, high noon being the 
phrase we always used for a wedding that took 
place round twelve o'clock in the day. The 
daughter of one of the wealthiest merchants in 
the town, and also one of our largest advertisers, 
was going to be married to the first deputy 
cotillion leader of the German Club, or some- 
thing of that nature. Anyhow the groom was 
what is known as prominent in society, and the 
chief wanted a spread made of it. Devore sent 
the major out to cover the wedding, and when 
he came back told him to write about half a 
column. 

He wrote half a column before he mentioned 
the bride's name. He started off with an eight- 
line quotation from Walter Scott's Lady of the 
Lake, and then he went into a long, flowery 
dissertation on the sacred rite or ceremony of 
fnol ^ 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

matrimony, proving conclusively and beyond 
the peradventure of a doubt that it was handed 
down to us from remote antiquity. And he 
forgot altogether to tell the minister's name, 
and he got the groom's middle initial wrong — 
he was the kind of groom who would make a 
fuss over a wrong middle initial, too — and 
along toward the end of his story he devoted 
about three closely-written pages to the mili- 
tary history of the young woman's father. It 
seems that her parent had served with distinc- 
tion as colonel of a North Carolina regiment. 
And he wound up with a fancy flourish and 
handed it in. I know all these details of his 
story, because it fell to me to rewrite it. 

Devore didn't say a word when the old major 
reverently laid that armload of copy down in 
front of him. He just sat and waited in silence 
until the major had gone out to get a bite to 
eat, and then he undertook to edit it. But 
there wasn't any way to edit it, except to throw 
it away. I suppose that kind of literature went 
very well indeed back along about 1850; I 
remember having read such accounts in the 
back files of old weeklies, printed before the 
war. But we were getting out a live, snappy 
paper. Devore tried to pattern the local side 
after the New York and Chicago models. As 
yet we hadn't reached the point where we spoke 
of any white woman without the prefix Mrs. 
or Miss before her name, but we were up-to- 
date in a good many other particula rs. Why, 
I 111] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

it was even against the ojBBce rule to run 
"beauty and chivalry" into a story when 
describing a mixed assemblage of men and 
women; and when a Southern newspaper bars 
out that ancient and honorable standby among 
phrases it is a sign that the old order has 
changed. 

For ten minutes or so Devore, cursing softly 
to himself, cut and chopped and gutted his way 
through the major's iatroduction, and between 
slashing strokes made a war map of the Bal- 
kans in his scalp with his blue pencil. Then 
he lost patience altogether. 

"Here," he said to me, "you're not doing 
anything, are you.'* Well, take this awful 
bunch of mushy slush and read it through, and 
then try to make a decent half-column story 
out of it. And rush it over a page at a time, 
will you? We've got to hustle to catch the 
three o'clock edition with it." 

Long before three o'clock the major was back 
in the shop, waiting for the first run of papers 
to come oflF the press. Furtively I watched him 
as he hunted through the sticky pages to find 
his first story. I guess he had the budding 
pride of authorship in him, just as all the rest 
of us have it in us. But he didn't find his 
story, he found mine. He didn't say anything, 
but he looked crushed and forlorn as he got up 
and went away. It was like him not to ask 
for any explanations, and it was like Devore 

not to offer him any. 

[1121 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

So it went. Even if he had grown up in the 
business I doubt whether Major Putnam Stone 
would ever have made a newspaper man; and 
now he was too far along in life to pick up even 
the rudiments of the trade. He didn't have 
any more idea of news values than a rabbit. 
He had the most amazing faculty for over- 
looking what was vital in the news, but he 
could always be depended upon to pick out 
some trivial and inconsequential detail and 
dress it up with about half a yard of old-point 
lace adjectives. He never by any chance used 
a short word if he could dig up a long, hard one, 
and he never seemed to be able to start a story 
without a quotation from one of the poets. It 
never was a modern poet either. Excepting 
for Sidney Lanier and Father Ryan, apparently 
he hadn't heard of any poet worth while since 
Edgar Allan Poe died. And everything that 
happened seemed to remind him — at great 
length — of something else that had happened 
between 1861 and 1865. When it came to 
lugging the Civil War into a tale, he was as 
bad as that character in one of Dickens' novels 
who couldn't keep the head of King Charles 
the First out of his literary productions. With 
that reared-back, flat-heeled, stiff-spined gait 
of his, he would go rummaging round the 
hotels and the Shawnee Club, meeting all sorts 
of people and hearing all sorts of things that 
a real reporter would have snatched at like a 
hungry dog sn atching at a T-bone, and then 

[1131 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 
\ 

he would remember that it was the fortieth 
anniversary of the Battle of Kenesaw Moun- 
tain, or something, and, forgetting everything 
else, would come bulging and bustling back 
to the office, all worked up over the prospect 
of writing two or three columns about that. 
He just simply couldn't get the viewpoint; 
yet I think he tried hard enough. I guess the 
man who said you couldn't teach an old dog 
new tricks had particular reference to an old 
war dog. 

I remember mighty well one incident that 
illustrates the point I am trying to make. 
We had a Sunday edition. We were rather 
vain of our Sunday edition. It carried a 
colored comic supplement and a section full 
of special features, and we all took a more or 
less righteous pride in it and tried hard to make 
it alive and attractive. We didn't always 
succeed, but we tried all right. One Saturday 
night we put the Sunday to bed, and about one 
o'clock, when the last form was locked, three 
or four of us dropped into Tony's place at 
the corner for a bite to eat and a drink. We 
hadn't been there very long when in came the 
old major, and at my invitation he joined us 
at one of Tony's little round tables at the back 
of the place. As a general thing the major 
didn't patronize Tony's. I had never heard 
him say so — probably he wouldn't have said 
it for fear of hurting our feelings — but I 
somehow had gathered the impression that the 
[114 J 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

major believed a gentleman, if he drank at all, 
should drink at his club. But it was long after 
midnight now and the Shawnee Club would 
be closed. Ike Webb spoke up presently. 

"It's a pity we couldn't dig up the governor 
tonight," he said. 

The governor had come down from the state 
capital about noon, and all the afternoon and 
during most of the evening Webb had been 
trying to find him. There was a possibility 
of a big story in the governor if Webb could 
have found him. The major, who had been 
sitting there stirring his toddy in an absent- 
minded sort of way, spoke up casually: "I 
spent an hour with the governor tonight — 
at my club. In fact, I supped with him in 
one of the private dining rooms." We looked 
up, startled, but the major went right along. 
"Young gentlemen, it may interest you to 
know that every time I see our worthy gov- 
ernor I am struck more and more by his 
resemblance to General Leonidas Polk, as that 
gallant soldier and gentleman looked when I 
last saw him " 

Devore, who had been sitting next to the 
major, with his shoulder half turned from the 
old man, swung round sharply and interrupted 
him. 

"Major," he said, with a thin icy stream of 

sarcasm trickling through his words, "did 

you and the governor by any remote chance 

discuss anything so brutally new and fresh 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

as the present political complications in this 
state?" 

"Oh, yes," said the major blandly. "We 
discussed them quite at some length — or at 
least the governor did. Personally I do not 
take a great interest in these matters, not so 
great an interest as I should, perhaps, take. 
However, I did feel impelled to take issue with 
him on one point. Our governor is an honest 
gentleman — more than that, he was a brave 
soldier — but I fear he is mistaken in some of 
his attitudes. I regard him as being badly 
advised. For example, he told me that no 
longer ago than this afternoon he affixed his 
official signature to a veto of Senator Stick- 
ney's measure in regard to the warehouses of 
our state " 

As Devore jumped up he overturned the 
major's toddy right in the major's lap. He 
didn't stop to beg pardon, though; in fact, 
none of us stopped. But at the door I threw 
one glance backward over my shoulder. The 
major was still sitting reared back in his chair, 
with his wasted toddy seeping all down the 
front of his billowy shirt, viewing our vanish- 
ing figures with amazement and a mild reproof 
in his eyes. In the one quick glance that I 
took I translated his expression to mean 
something like this: 

"Good Heavens, is this any way for a party 
of gentlemen to break up! This could never 
happen at a gentlemen's club." 

11161 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

It was a foot-race back to the office, and 
Devore, who had the start, won by a short 
length. Luckily the distance was short, not 
quite half a block, and the presses hadn't 
started yet. Working like the crew of a sink- 
ing ship, we snatched the first page form back 
off the steam table and pried it open and 
gouged a double handful of hot slugs out of 
the last column — Devore blistered his fingers 
doing it. A couple of linotype operators who 
were on the late trick threw together the stick 
or two of copy that Webb and I scribbled off 
a line at a time. And while we were doing this 
Devore framed a triple-deck, black-face head. 
So we missed only one mail. 

The first page had a ragged, sloppy look, but 
anyway we were saved from being scooped to 
death on the most important story of the year. 
The vetoing of the Stickney Bill vitally affected 
the tobacco interests, and they were the biggest 
interests in the state, and half the people of 
the state had been thinking about nothing else 
and talking about nothing else for two months 
— ever since the extra session of the legislature 
started. It was well for us too that we did 
save our faces, because the opposition sheet 
had managed to find the governor — he was 
stopping for the night at the house of a friend 
out in the suburbs — and over the telephone 
at a late hour he had announced his decision 
to them. But by Monday morning the major 
seemed to have forgott en the whole thing. I 

TTitI 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

think he had even forgiven Devore for spilling 
his toddy and not stopping to apologize. 

As for Devore, he didn't say a word to the 
major — what would have been the use? To 
Devore's credit also I will say that he didn't 
run to the chief, bearing complaints of the 
major's hopeless incompetency. He kept his 
tongue between his teeth and his teeth locked; 
and that must have been hard on Devore, for he 
was a flickery, high-tempered man, and nervous 
as a cat besides. To my knowledge, the only 
time he ever broke out was when we teetotally 
missed the Castleton divorce story. So far as 
the major's part in it was concerned, it was 
the Stickney veto story all over again, with 
variations. The Castletons were almost the 
richest people in town, and socially they stood 
way up. That made the scandal that had been 
brewing and steeping and simmering for months 
all the bigger when finally it came to a boil. 
When young Buford Castleton got his eyes 
open and became aware of what everybody else 
had known for a year or more, and when the 
rival evening paper came out in its last edition 
with the full particulars, we, over in the Even- 
ing Press shop, were plastered with shame, for 
we didn't have a line of it. 

A stranger dropping in just about that time 
would have been justified in thinking there 
was a corpse laid out in the plant somewhere, 
and that all the members of the city staff 
were sitting up with the remains. As luck 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

would have it, it wasn't a stranger that dropped 
in on our grand lodge of sorrow. It was 
Major Putnam Stone, and as he entered the 
door he caught the tag end of what one of us 
was saying. 

"I gather," he said in that large round 
voice of his, "that you young gentlemen are 
discussing the unhappy affair which, I note, is 
mentioned with such signally poor taste in the 
columns of our sensational contemporary. I 
may state that I knew of this contemplated 
divorce action yesterday. Mr. Buford Castle- 
ton, Senior, was my informant." 

"What!" Devore almost yelled it. He had 
the love of a true city editor for his paper, and 
the love of a mother for her child or a miser 
for his gold is no greater love than that, let me 
tell you. "You knew about this thing here.^^" 
He beat with two fingers that danced like the 
prongs of a tuning fork on the paper spread 
out in front of him. " You knew it yesterday.'* " 

"Certainly," said the major. "The elder 
Mr. Castleton bared the truly distressing 
details to me at the Shawnee Club." 

"In confidence though — he told you about 
it in confidence, didn't he, major?" said Ike 
Webb, trying to save the old fellow. 

But the major besottedly wouldn't be saved. 

"Absolutely not," he said. "There were 

several of us present, at least three other 

gentlemen whose names I cannot now recall. 

Mr. Castleton made the d isclosure as though 

[1191 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

he wished it to be known among his friends 
and his son's friends. It was quite evident to 
all of us that he was entirely out of sympathy 
with the lady who is his daughter-in-law." 

Devore forced himself to be calm. It was 
almost as though he sat on himself to hold 
himself down in his chair; but when he spoke 
his voice ran up and down the scales quiveringly. 

"Major," he said, "don't you think it would 
be a good idea if you would admit that the 
Southern Confederacy was defeated, and turned 
your attention to a few things that have oc- 
curred subsequently? Why didn't you write 
this story .f^ Why didn't you tell me, so that I 

could write it? Why didn't Oh, what's 

the use!" 

The major straightened himself up. 

"Sir," he said, "allow me to correct you in 
regard to a plain misstatement of fact. Sir, 
the Southern Confederacy was never defeated. 
It ceased to exist as a nation because we were 
exhausted — because our devastated country 
was exhausted. Another thing, sir, I am 
employed upon this paper, I gainsay you, as 
a reporter, not as a scandal monger. I would 
be the last to give circulation in the public 
prints to another gentleman's domestic unhap- 
piness. I regard it as highly improper that a 
gentleman's private affairs should be aired in 
a newspaper under any circumstances." 

And with that he bowed and turned on his 
heel and went out, leaving Devore shaking 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

all over with the superhuman task of trying 
to hold himself in. About ten minutes later, 
when I came out bound for my boarding house, 
the major was standing at the front door. He 
looped one of his absurdly small fingers into 
one of my buttonholes. 

"Our city editor means well, no doubt," 
he said, "but he doesn't understand, he doesn't 
appreciate our conceptions of these matters. 
He was bom on the other side of the river, 
you know," he said as though that explained 
everything. Then his tone changed and anxiety 
crept into it. "Do you think that I went too 
iai? Do you think I ought to return to him 
and apologize to him for the somewhat hasty 
and abrupt manner of speech I used just now?" 

I told him no — I didn't know what might 
happen if he went back in there then — and 
I persuaded him that Devore didn't expect 
any apology; and with that he seemed better 
satisfied and walked off. As I stood there 
watching him, his stiff old back growing smaller 
as he went away from me, I didn't know which 
I blamed the more, Devore for his malignant, 
cold disdain of the major, or the major for his 
blatant stupidity. And right then and there, 
all of a sudden, there came to me an under- 
standing of a thing that had been puzzling me 
all these weeks. Often I had wondered how 
the major had endured Devore's contempt. 
I had decided in my own mind that he must be 
blind to it, else he wou ld have shown resent- 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ment. But now I knew the answer. The 
major wasn't blind, he was afraid; as the saying 
goes, he was afraid of his job. He needed it; 
he needed the Httle scrap of money it brought 
him every Saturday night. That was it, I 
knew now. 

Knowing it made me sorrier than ever for 
the old man. Dimly I began to realize, I 
think, what his own mental attitude toward 
his position must be. Here he was, a mere 
cub reporter — and a remarkably bad one, a 
proven f ailm-e — skirmishing round for small, 
inconsequential items, running errands really, 
at an age when most of the men he knew were 
getting ready to retire from business. Yet 
he didn't dare quit. He didn't dare even to 
rebel against the slights of the man over him, 
because he needed that twelve dollars a week. 
It was all, no doubt, that stood between him 
and actual want. His pride was bleeding to 
death internally. On top of all that he was 
being forced into a readjustment of his whole 
scheme of things, at a time of life when its 
ordered routine was almost as much a part 
of him as his hands and feet. As I figured 
it, he had long before adjusted his life to 
his income, cunningly fitting in certain small 
luxuries and all the small comforts; and now 
this income was cut to a third or a quarter 
perhaps of its former dimensions. It seemed 
a pretty hard thing for the major. It was 

fierce. 

fiiil 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

Perhaps my vision was clouded by my sym- 
pathy, but I thought Major Stone aged visibly 
that summer. Maybe you have noticed how 
it is with men who have gone along, hale and 
stanch, untH they reach a certain age. When 
they do start to break they break fast. He 
lost some of his flesh and most of his rosi- 
ness. The skin on his face loosened a little and 
became a tallowy yellowish-red, somewhat like 
a winter-killed apple. 

His wardrobe suffered. One day one of his 
short little shoes was split across the top just 
back of the toe cap, and the next morning 
it was patched. Pretty soon the other shoe 
followed suit — first a crack in the leather, 
then a clumsy patch over the crack. He wore 
his black slouch hat until it was as green in 
spots as a gage plum; and late in August he 
supplanted it with one of those cheap, varnished 
brown-straw hats that cost about thirty-five 
cents apiece and look it. 

His linen must have been one of his small 
extravagances. Those majestically collared 
garments with the tremendous plaited bosoms 
and the hand worked eyelets, where the three 
big flat gold studs went in, never came ready 
made from any shop. They must have been 
built to his measure and his order. Now 
he wore them until there were gaped places 
between the plaits where the fine, fragile linen 
had ripped lengthwise, and the collars were 
frayed down and broken across and caved in 
[123] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

limply. Finally he gave them up too, and 
one morning came to work wearing a flimsy, 
sleazy, negligee shirt. I reckon you know the 
kind of shirt I mean — always it fits badly, 
and the sleeves are always short and the bosom 
is skimpy, and the color design is like bad wall- 
paper. After his old full-bosomed grandeur 
this shirt, with a ten-cent collar buttoned on 
to it and overriding the neckband, and gaping 
away in the front so that the major's throat 
showed, seemed to typify more than any- 
thing else the days upon which he had fallen. 
About this time I thought his voice took 
on a changed tone permanently. It was still 
hollow, but it no longer rang. 

A good many men similarly placed would 
have taken to drink, but Major Putnam Stone 
plainly was never bom to be a drunkard and 
hard times couldn't make one of him. With 
a sort of gentle, stupid persistence he hung 
fast to his poor job, blundering through some 
way, struggling constantly to learn the first 
easy tricks of the trade — the a, b, c's of it 
— and never succeeding. He still lugged the 
classical poets and the war into every story 
he tried to write, and day after day Devore 
maintained his policy of eloquent brutal silence, 
refusing dumbly to accept the major's clumsy 
placating attempts to get upon a better foot- 
ing with him. After that once he had never 
attempted to scold the old man, but he would 
watch the major pottering round the city room, 
[124] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

and he would chew on his under lip and viciously 
lance his scalp with his pencil point. 

Well, aside from the major, Devore had his 
troubles that summer. That was the summer 
of the biggest, bitterest campaign that the 
state had seen, so old-timers said, since Breckin- 
ridge ran against Douglas and both of them 
against Lincoln. If you have ever lived in the 
South, probably you know something of politi- 
cal fights that will divide a state into two 
armed camps, getting hotter and hotter until 
old slumbering animosities come crawling out 
into the open, like poison snakes from under 
a rock, and new hvely ones hatch from the 
shell every hour or so in a multiplying adder 
brood. 

This was like that, only worse. Stripped of 
a lot of embroidery in the shape of side issues 
and local complications, it resolved itself in a 
last-ditch, last-stand, back-to-the-wall fight of 
the old regime of the party against the new. 
On one side were the oldsters, bearers of famous 
names some of them, who had learned politics 
as a trade and followed it as a profession. 
Almost to a man they were professional office 
holders, professional handshakers, professional 
silver tongues. And against them were pitted 
a greedy, hungry group of younger men, less 
showy perhaps in their persons, less picturesque 
in their manner of speech, but filled each one 
with a great yearning for office and power; 
and they brought to the aid of their vaulting 
[125] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ambitions a new and a faultlessly running 
machine. From the outset the Evening Press 
had championed the cause of the old crowd 
— the state-house ring as the enemy called it, 
when they didn't call it something worse. We 
championed it not as a Northern or an Eastern 
paper might, in a sedate, half-hearted way, but 
fiercely and wholly and blindly — so blindly 
that we could see nothing in our own faction 
but what was good and high and pure, nothing 
in the other but what was smutted with evil 
intent. In daily double-leaded editorial col- 
umns the chief preached a Holy War, and in 
the local pages we fought the foe tooth and 
nail, biting and gouging and clawing, and they 
gouged and clawed back at us like catamounts. 
That was where the hard work fell upon Devore. 
He had to keep half his scanty staff working 
on politics while the other half tried to cover 
the run of the news. 

If I live to be a thousand years old I am 
not going to forget the state convention that 
began at two o'clock that muggy September 
afternoon at Lyric Hall up on Washington 
Street in the old part of the town. Once upon 
a time, twenty or thirty years before, Lyric 
Hall had been the biggest theater in town. 
The stage was still there and the boxes, and 
at the back there were miles — they seemed 
miles anyway — of ancient, crumbling, dauby 
scenery stacked up and smelling of age and 
decay. Booth and Barrett had played there. 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

and Fanny Davenport and Billy Florence. 
Now, having fallen from its high estate, it 
served altered purposes — conventions were 
held at Lyric Hall and cheap masquerade balls 
and the like. 

The press tables that had been provided 
were not, strictly speaking, press tables at 
all. They were ordinary unpainted kitchen 
tables, ranged two on one side and two on the 
other side at the front of the stage, close up 
to the old gas-tipped footlights; and when we 
came in by the back way that afternoon and 
found our appointed places I was struck by 
certain sinister facts. Usually women flocked 
to a state convention. By rights there should 
have been ladies in the boxes and in the balcony. 
Now there wasn't a woman in sight anywhere, 
only men, row after row of them. And there 
wasn't any cheering, or mighty little of it. 
When I tell you the band played Dixie all the 
way through with only a stray whoop now and 
then, you will understand better the temper 
of that crowd. 

The situation, you see, was like this: One 

side had carried the mountain end -of the 

state; the other had carried the lowlands. 

One side had swept the city; that meant a 

solid block of more than a hundred delegates. 

The other side had won the small towns and 

the inland counties. So it stood lowlander 

against highlander, city man against country 

man, a nd the bitter waters of those ancient 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

feuds have their wellsprings back a thousand 
years in history, they tell me. One side led 
slenderly on instructed vote. The other side 
had enough contesting delegations on hand to 
upset the result if these contestants or any 
considerable proportion of them should be 
recognized in the preliminary organization. 

One side held a majority of the delegates who 
sat upon the floor; the other side had packed 
the balcony and the aisles and the comers with 
its armed partisans. One side was in the 
saddle and determined; the other afoot and 
grimly desperate. And it was our side, as I 
shall call it, meaning by that the state-house 
ring, that for the moment had the whiphand; 
and it was the other side, led in person by State 
Senator Stickney, god of the new machine, 
that stood ready to wade hip deep through 
trouble to unhorse us. 

Just below me, stretching across the hall 
from side to side in favored front places, sat 
the city delegates — Stickney men all of them. 
A.nd as my eye swept the curved double row 
of faces it seemed to me I saw there every man 
in town with a reputation as a gun-fighter or 
a knife-fighter or a fist-fighter; and every one 
of them wore, pinning his delegate's badge to 
his breast, a Stickney button that was round 
and bright red, like a clot of blood on his shirt 
front. 

They made a contrast, these half-moon 
lines of blocky men, to the lank, slouch-hatted, 
fiiil 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

low-collared country delegates — farmers, school 
teachers, country doctors and country lawyers 
— who filled the seats behind them and on 
beyond them. To the one group politics was 
a business in which there was money to be 
made and excitement to be had; to the other 
group it was a passion, veritably a sacredly 
high and serious thing, which they took as 
they did their religion, with a solemn, intol- 
erant, Calvinistic sincerity. There was one 
thing, though, they all shared in common. 
Whether a man's coat was of black alpaca or 
striped flannel, the right-hand pocket sagged 
under the weight of unseen ironmongery; or if 
the coat pocket didn't sag there was a bulging 
clump back under the skirts on the right hip. 
For all the heat, hardly a man there was in 
his shirtsleeves; and it would have been funny 
to watch how carefully this man or that eased 
himself down into his seat, favoring his flanks 
against the pressure of his hardware — that is 
to say, it would have been funny if it all hadn't 
been so deadly earnest. 

You could fairly smell trouble cooking in 
that hall. In any corner almost there were 
the potential makings of half a dozen prominent 
funerals. There was scarce a man, I judged, 
but nursed a private grudge against some 
other man; and then besides these there was 
the big issue itself, which had split the state 
apart lengthwise as a butcher's cleaver splits 
a joint. Looking out over that convention, 
[ 129 1 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

you could read danger spelled out everywhere, 
in everything, as plain as print. 

I was where I could read it with particular 
and uncomfortable distinctness, too, for I had 
the second place at the table that had been 
assigned to the Evening Press crew. There 
were four of us in all — Devore, who had 
elected to be in direct charge of the detail; 
Ike Webb, our star man, who was to handle 
the main story; I who was to write the running 
account — and, fourthly and lastly. Major 
Putnam Stone. The major hadn't been in- 
cluded in the assignment originally, but little 
Pinky Gilfoil had turned up sick that morning, 
and the chief decided the major should come 
along with us in Gilfoil's place. The chief 
had a deluded notion that the major could 
circulate on a roving commission and pick up 
spicy scraps of gossip. But here, for this once 
anyway, was a convention wherein there were 
no spicy bits of gossip to be picked up — curse 
words, yes, and cold-chilled fighting words, 
but not gossip — everything focused and was 
summed up in the one main point: Should 
the majority rule the machine or should the 
machine rule the majority? So the major sat 
there at the far inside corner of the table doing 
nothing at all — Devore saw to that — and 
was rather in the way. For the time I forgot 
all about him. 

The clash wasn't long in coming. It came 
on the first roll call of the counties. Later 
fiiol 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

we found out that the Stickney forces had been 
counting, all along, on throwing the convention 
into a disorder of such proportions as to force 
an adjournment, trusting then to their acknowl- 
edged superiority at organization to win some 
strong strategic advantage in the intervening 
gap of time. Failing there they meant to raise 
a cry of unfairness and walk out. That then 
was their program — first the riot and then, 
as a last resort, the bolt. But they had men 
in their ranks, high-tempered men who, like 
so many skittish colts, wouldn't stand, without 
hitching. The signals crossed and the thunder 
cracked across that calm-before-the-storm situ- 
ation before there was proper color of excuse 
either for attack or for retreat. 

It came with scarcely any warning at all. 
Old Judge Marcellus Barbee, the state chair- 
man, called the convention to order, he stand- 
ing at a little table in the center of the stage. 
Although counted as our man, the judge was 
of such uncertain fiber as to render it doubtful 
whose man he really was. He was a kindly, 
wind-blown old gentleman, who very much 
against his will had been drawn unawares, as it 
were, into the middle of this fight, and he was 
bewildered by it all — and not only bewil- 
dered but unhappy and frightened. His gavel 
seemed to quaver its raps out timorously. 

A pastor of one of the churches, a reverend 

man with a bleak, worried face, prayed the 

Good Lord that peace and good-will and wise 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

counsel might rule these deliberations, and then 
fled away as though fearing the mocking echoes 
of his own Amen. Summoning his skulking 
voice out of his lower throat. Judge Barbee 
bade the secretary of the state committee 
call the counties. The secretary got as far 
as Blanton, the third county alphabetically 
down the list. And Blanton was one of the 
contested counties. So up rose two rival 
chairmen of delegations, each waving aloft 
his credentials, each demanding the right to 
cast the vote of free and sovereign Blanton, 
each shaking a clenched fist at the other. Up 
got the rival delegations from Blanton. Up 
got everybody. Judge Barbee, with a gesture, 
recognized the rights of the anti-Stickney dele- 
gation. Jeers and yells broke out, spattering 
forth like a skirmish fire, then almost instantly 
were merged into a vast, ominous roar. Chairs 
began to overturn. Not twenty feet from me 
the clattering of the chairman's gavel, as he 
vainly beat for order, sounded like the clicking 
of a telegraph instrument in a cyclone. 

I saw the sergeant-at-arms — who was our 
man too — start down the middle aisle and 
saw him trip over a hostile leg and stumble 
and fall, and I saw a big mountaineer drop 
right on top of him, pinning him flat to the 
floor. I saw the musicians inside the orchestra 
rail, almost under my feet, scuttling away in 
two directions like a divided covey of gorgeous 
blue and re d birds. I saw the snare drummer, 
[132] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

» little round German, put his foot through 
the skin roof of his own drum. I saw Judge 
Barbee overturn the white china pitcher of ice 
Tfater that sweated on the table at his elbow, 
and as the cold stream of its contents spattered 
down the legs of his trousers saw him staring 
downward, contemplating his drenched limbs 
as though that mattered greatly. 

All in a flash I saw these things, and in that 
■ame flash I saw, taking shape and impulse, 
a groundswell of men, all wearing red buttons, 
rolling toward the stage, with the picked bad 
men of the city wards for its crest; and out 
of the tail of my eye I saw too, stealing out 
from the rear of the stage, a small, compact 
wedge of men wearing those same red buttons; 
and the prow of the wedge was Fighting Dave 
Dancy, the official bad man of a bad county, 
a man who packed a gun on each hip and carried 
a dirk knife down the back of his neck; a man 
who would shoot you at the drop of a hat and 
provide the hat himself — or at least so it was 
said of him. 

And I realized that the enemy, coming by 
concerted agreement from front and rear at 
once, had nipped those of us who were upon 
the stage as between two closing walls, and 
I was exceedingly unhappy to be there. I 
ducked my head low, waiting for the shooting 
to begin. Afterward we figured it out that 
nobody fired the first shot because everybody 
knew the first shot would mean a massacre, 
[Tiil 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

where likely enough a man would kill more 
friends than foes. 

What happened now in the space of the next 
few seconds I saw with particular clarity of 
vision, because it happened right alongside me 
and in part right over me. I recall in especial 
Mink Satterlee. IVIink Satterlee was one of 
the worst men in town, and he ran the worst 
saloon and prevailed mightily in ward politics. 
He had been sitting just below our table in the 
front row of seats. He was a big-bodied man, 
fat-necked, but this day he showed himself 
quick on his feet as any toe-dancer. Leading 
his own forces by a length, he vaulted the 
orchestra rail and lit lightly where a scared 
oboe player had been squatted a moment be- 
fore; Mink breasted the gutterlike edging of 
the footlights and leaped upward, teetering a 
moment in space. One of his hands grabbed 
out for a purchase and closed on the leg of 
our table and jerked it almost from under us. 

At that Devore either lost his head or else 
indignation made him reckless. Still half 
sitting, he kicked out at the wriggling bulk 
at his feet, and the toe of his shoe took Mink 
Satterlee in his chest. It was a puny enough 
kick; it didn't even shake Mink Satterlee 
loose from where he clung. He gave a bellow 
and heaved himself up on the stage and, before 
any of us could move, grabbed Devore by the 
throat with his left hand and jammed him 
back, face upward, on the table until I thought 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

Devore's spine would crack. His right hand 
shot into his coat pocket, then, quick as a 
snake, came out again, showing the fat fist 
armed with a set of murderously heavy brass 
knucks, and he bent his arm in a crooked sickle- 
like stroke, aiming for Devore's left temple, 
I've always been satisfied — and so has Devore 
— that if the blow had landed true his skull 
would have caved in like a puff-ball. Only it 
never landed. 

Above me a shadow of something hung for 
the hundredth part of a second, something 
white flashed over me and by me, moving down- 
ward whizzingly; something cracked on some- 
thing; and Mink Satterlee breathed a gentle 
little grunt right in Devore's face and then 
relaxed and slid down on the floor, lying half 
under the table and half in the tin trough 
where the stubby gas jets of the footlights 
stood up, with his legs protruding stiffly out 
over its edge toward his friends. Subcon- 
sciously I noted that his socks were not mates, 
one of them being blue and one black; also 
that his scalp had a crescent-shaped split 
place in it just between and above his half- 
closed eyes. All this, though, couldn't have 
taken one-fifth of the time it has required for 
me to tell it. It couldn't have taken more 
than a brace of seconds, but even so it was 
time enough for other things to happen; and 
I looked back again toward the center of the 
stage just as Fighting Dave Dancy seized 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

startled old Judge Barbee by the middle from 
behind and flung him aside so roughly that 
the old man spun round twice, clutching at 
nothing, and then sat down very hard, yards 
away from where he started spinning. 

Dancy stooped for the gavel, which had 
fallen from the judge's hand, being minded, 
I think, to run the convention awhile in the 
interest of his own crowd. But his greedy 
fingers never closed over its black-walnut 
handle, because, facing him, he saw just then 
what made him freeze solid where he was. 

Out from behind the Evening Press table 
and through a scattering huddle of newspaper 
reporters, stepping on the balls of his feet as 
lightly as a puss-cat, emerged Major Putnam 
Stone. His sleeves were turned back off his 
wrists and his vest flared open. His head 
was thrust forward so that the tuft of goatee 
on his chin stuck straight out ahead of him 
like a little burgee in a fair breeze. His face 
was all a clear, bright, glowing pink; and in 
his right hand he held one of the longest cav- 
alry revolvers that ever was made, I reckon. 
It had a square-butted ivory handle, and as I 
saw that ivory handle I knew what the white 
thing was that had flashed by me only a 
moment before to fell Mink Satterlee so 
expeditiously. 

Writing this, I've been trying to think of 

the one word that would best describe how 

Major Putnam Stone looked to me as he ad- 
__ 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

vanced on Dave Dancy. I think now that 
the proper word is competent, for indeed the 
old major did look most competent — the 
tremendous efficiency he radiated filled him 
out and made him seem sundry sizes larger 
than he really was. A great emergency acts 
upon different men as chemical processes act 
upon different metals. Some it melts like lead, 
so that their resolution softens and runs away 
from them; and some it hardens to tempered 
steel. There was the old major now. Always 
before this he had seemed to me to be but 
pot metal and putty, and here, poised, alert, 
ready — a wire-drawn, hard-hammered Damas- 
cus blade of a man — all changed and trans- 
formed and glorified, he was coming down on 
Dave Dancy, finger on trigger, thumb on 
hammer, eye on target, dominating the whole 
scene. 

Ten feet from him he halted and there 
was nobody between them. Somehow every- 
body else halted too, some even giving back a 
little. Over the edge of the stage a ring of 
staring faces, like a high-water mark, showed 
m where the onward rushing swell of the Stickney 

city delegates had checked itself. Seemingly 
to all at once came the realization that the 
destinies of the fight had by the chances of 
the fight been entrusted to these two men — 
to Dancy and the major — and that between 
them the issue would be settled one way or 
the other. 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Still at a half crouch, Dancy's right hand 
began to steal back under the skirt of his long 
black coat. At that the major flung up the 
muzzle of his weapon so that it pointed sky- 
ward, and he braced his left arm at his side 
in the attitude you have seen in the pictures 
of dueling scenes of olden times. 

"I am waiting, sir, for you to draw," said 
the major quite briskly. "I will shoot it 
out with you to see whether right or might 
shall control this convention." And his heels 
clicked together like castanets. 

Dancy's right hand kept stealing farther and 
farther back. And then you could mark by 
the change of his skin and by the look out of 
his eyes how his courage was clabbering to 
whey inside him, making his face a milky, 
curdled white, the color of a poorly stirred 
emulsion, and then he quit — he quit cold — 
his hand came out again from under his coat 
tails and it was an empty hand and wide open. 
It was from that moment on that through- 
out our state Fighting Dave Dancy ceased to 
be Fighting Dave and became instead YaUer 
Dave. 

"Then, sir," said the major, "as you do not 
seem to care to shoot it out with me, man to 
man, you and your friends will kindly withdraw 
from this stage and allow the business of this 
convention to proceed in an orderly manner." 

And as Dave Dancy started to go somebody 

laughed. In another second we were all 
__ 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

laughing and the danger was over. When an 
American crowd begins laughing the danger is 
always over. 

Newspaper men down in that town still 
talk about the story that Ike Webb wrote for 
the last edition of the Evening Press that after- 
noon. It was a great story, as Ike Webb told 
it — how, still sitting on the floor, old Judge 
Barbee got his wits back and by word of mouth 
commissioned the major a special sergeant-at- 
arms; how the major privily sent men to close 
and lock and hold the doors so that the Stick- 
ney people couldn't get out to bolt, even if 
they had now been of a mind to do so; how 
the convention, catching the spirit of the 
moment, elected the major its temporary chair- 
man, and how even after that, for quite a 
spell, until some of his friends bethought to 
remove him. Mink Satterlee slept peacefully 
under our press table with his mismated legs 
bridged across the tin trough of the foot- 
lights. 

In rapid succession a number of unusual 
events occurred in the Evening Press shop 
the next morning. To begin with, the chief 
came down early. He had a few words in 
private with Devore and went upstairs. When 
the major came at eight as usual, Devore was 
waiting for him at the door of the city room; 
and as they went upstairs together, side by side, 
[139] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

I saw Devore's arm steal timidly out and rest 
a moment on the major's shoulder. 

The major was the first to descend. Walk- 
ing unusually erect, even for him, he bustled 
into the telephone booth. Jessie, our operator, 
told us afterward that he called up a haber- 
dasher, and in a voice that boomed like a bell 
ordered fourteen of those plaited-bosom shirts 
of his, the same to be made up and delivered 
as soon as possible. Then he stalked out. 
And in a minute or two more Devore came 
down looking happy and unhappy and em- 
barrassed and exalted, aU of them at once. 
On his way to his desk he halted midway of 
the floor. 

"Gentlemen," he said huskily — "fellows, 
I mean — I've got an announcement to make, 
or rather two announcements. One is this: 
Right here before you fellows who heard most 
of them I want to take back all the mean 
things I ever said about him — about Major 
Stone — and I want to say I'm sorry for all 
the mean things I've done to him. I've tried 
to beg his pardon, but he wouldn't listen — 
he wouldn't let me beg his pardon — he 
— he said everything was all right. That's 
one announcement. Here's the other: The 
major is going to have a new job with this 
paper. He's going to leave the city stafiP. 
Hereafter he's going to be upstairs in the room 
next to the chief. He's gone out now to pick 
out his own desk. He's going to write specials 
[140] 



CUB REPORTER STORIES 

for the Sunday — specials about the war. 
And he's going to do it on a decent salary too." 

I judge by my own feelings that we all 
wanted to cheer, but didn't because we thought 
it might sound theatrical and foolish. Any- 
how, I know that was how I felt. So there 
was a little awkward pause. 

"What's his new title going to be?" asked 
somebody then. 

"The title is appropriate — I suggested it 
myself," said Devore. "Major Stone is going 
to be war editor." 



[1411 



V 

SMOKE OF BATTLE 



THIS befell during the period that Major 
Putnam Stone, at the age of sixty-two, 
held a job as cub reporter on the Even- 
ing Press and worked at it until his 
supply of fine linen and the patience of City 
Editor Wilbert Devore frazzled out practically 
together. The episode to which I would here 
direct attention came to pass in the middle of 
a particularly hot week in the middle of that 
particularly hot and grubby summer, at a 
time when the major was still wearing the last 
limp survivor of his once adequate stock of 
frill-bosomed, roll-collared shirts, and when 
Devore's scanty stock of endurance had already 
worn perilously near the snapping point. 

As may be recalled. Major Stone lived a 
life of comparative leisure from the day he 
came out of the Confederate army, a seasoned 
veteran, until the day he joined the staff of the 
Evening Press, a rank beginner; and of these 
two employments one lay a matter of four 
[1421 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



decades back in a half-forgotten past, while 
the other was of pressing moment, having 
to do with Major Stone's enjoyment of his 
daily bread and other elements of nutrition 
regarded as essential to the sustenance of 
human life. In his military career he might 
have been more or less of a success. Cer- 
tainly he must have acquitted himself with 
some measure of personal credit; the rank he 
had attained in the service and the standing 
he had subsequently enjoyed among his com- 
rades abundantly testified to that. 

As a reporter he was absolutely a total loss; 
for, as already set forth in some detail, he was 
hopelessly old-fashioned in thought and speech 
— hopelessly old-fashioned and pedantic in his 
style of writing; and since his mind mainly 
concerned itself with retrospections upon the 
things that happened between April, 1861, 
and May, 1865, he very naturally — and very 
frequently — forgot that to a newspaper re- 
porter every day is a new day and a new begin- 
ning, and that yesterday always is or always 
should be ancient history, let alone the time- 
tarnished yesterdays of forty-odd years ago. 
Indeed I doubt whether the major ever com- 
prehended that first commandment of the 
prentice reporter's catechism. 

Devore, himself no grand and glittering suc- 
cess as a newspaper man, nevertheless had 
mighty little use for the pottering, ponderous 
old major. Devore did not believe that bricks 
[1431 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

could be made without straw. He consid- 
ered it a waste of time and raw material to 
try. Through that summer he kept the major 
on the payroll solely because the chief so willed 
it. But, though he might not discharge the 
major, at least he could bait him — and bait 
him Devore did — not, mind you, with words, 
but with a silent, sublimated contempt more 
bitter and more biting than any words. 

So there, on the occasion in question, the 
situation stood — the major hanging on tooth 
and nail to his small job, because he needed 
most desperately the twelve dollars a week 
it brought him; the city editor regarding him 
and all his manifold reportorial sins of omis- 
sion, commission and remission with a cor- 
rosive, speechless venom; and the rest of us 
in the city room divided in our sympathies 
as between those two. We sympathized with 
Devore for having to carry so woful an incom- 
petent upon his small and overworked crew; 
we sympathized with the kindly, gentle, tire- 
some old major for his bungling, vain attempts 
to creditably cover the small and piddling 
assignments that came his way. 

I remember the date mighty well — the 
third of July. For three days now the Demo- 
cratic party, in national convention assembled 
at Chicago, had been in the throes of labor. 
It had been expected — in fact had been as 
good as promised — that by ten o'clock that 
evening the deadlock would melt before a 

[uT] ^ 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



sweetly gushing freshet of party harmony and 
the head of the presidential ticket would be 
named, wherefore in the Evening Press shop 
a late shift had stayed on duty to get out an 
extra. Back in the press-room the press was 
dressed. A front page form was made up and 
ready, all but the space where the name of the 
nominee would be inserted when the flash 
came; and in the alley outside a picked squad 
of newsboys, renowned for speed of the leg 
and carrying quality of the voice, awaited 
their wares, meanwhile skylarking under the 
eye of a circulation manager. 

Besides, there was no telling when an arrest 
might be made in the BuUard murder case — 
that just by itself would provide ample excuse 
for an extra. Two days had passed and two 
nights since the killing of Attorney-at-Law 
Rodney G. Bullard, and still the killing, to 
quote a favorite line of the local descriptive 
writers, "remained shrouded in impenetrable 
mystery." If the police force, now busily 
engaged in running clues into theories and 
theories into the ground, should by any blind 
chance of fortune be lucky enough to ascer- 
tain the identity and lay hands upon the per- 
son of Bullard's assassin, the whole town, 
regardless of the hour, would rise up out of 
bed to read the news of it. It was the biggest 
crime story that town had known for ten 
years; one of the biggest crime stories it had 
ever kn own. 
' fl45l ■ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

In the end our waiting all went for nothing. 
There were no developments at Central Sta- 
tion or elsewhere in the Bullard case, and at 
Chicago there was no nomination. At nine- 
thirty a bulletin came over our leased wire 
saying that Tammany, having been beaten 
before the Resolutions Committee, was still 
battling on the floor for its candidate; so that 
finally the convention had adjourned until 
morning, and now the delegates were stream- 
ing out of the hall, too tired to cheer and almost 
too tired to jeer — all of which was sad news 
to us, because it meant that, instead of taking 
a holiday on the Fourth, we must work until 
noon at least, and very likely until later. 
Down that way the Fourth was not observed 
with quite the firecrackery and skyrockety 
enthusiasm that marked its celebration in most 
of the states to the north of us; nevertheless, 
a day off was a day off and we were deeply dis- 
gusted at the turn affairs had taken. It was 
almost enough to make a fellow feel friendly 
toward the Republicans. 

Following the tension there was a snapback; 
a feeling of languor and disappointment pK)S- 
sessed us. Devore slammed down the lid of 
his desk and departed, cursing the luck as he 
went. Harty, the telegraph editor, and Wil- 
bur, the telegraph operator, rolled down their 
shirtsleeves and, taking their coats over their 
arms, departed in company for Tony's place 
up at the comer, where cool beers were to be 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



found and electric fans, and a business men's 
lunch served at all hours. 

That left in the city room four or five men. 
Sprawled upon battered chairs and draped 
over battered desks, they inhaled the smells 
of rancid greases that'^floated in to them from 
the back of the building; they coddled their 
disappointment to keep it warm and they 
talked shop. When it comes to talking shop 
in season and out of season, neither stock actors 
nor hospital surgeons are worse offenders than 
newspaper reporters — especially young news- 
paper reporters, as all these men were except 
only Major Stone. 

It was inevitable that the talk should turn 
upon the Bullard murder, and that the failure 
of the police force to find the killer or even to 
find a likely suspect should be the hinge for 
its turning. For the moment Ike Webb had 
the floor, expounding his own pet theories. 
Ike was a good talker — a mighty good reporter 
too, let me tell you. Across the room from 
Ike, tilted back in a chair against the wall, 
sat the major, looking shabby and a bit for- 
lorn. For a month now shabbiness had been 
seizing on the major, spreading over him like 
a mildew. It started first with his shoes, which 
turned brown and then cracked across the 
toes, it extended to his hat, which sagged in 
its brim and became a moldy green in its 
crown, and now it had touched his coat 
lapels, his waistcoat f ront, his collar — his 
[1471 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

rolling Lord Byron collar — and his sleeve 
ends. 

The major's harmlessly pompous manner 
was all gone from him that night. Of late his 
self-assurance had seemed to be fraying and 
frazzling away, along with those old-timey, 
full-bosomed shirts of which he had in times 
gone by been so tremendously proud. It was 
as though the passing of the one marked the 
passing of the other — symbolic as you might 
say. Formerly, too, the major had also ex- 
celled mightily in miscellaneous conversation, 
dominating it by sheer weight of tediousness. 
Now he sat silent while these youngsters with 
their unthatched lips — born, most of them, 
after he reached middle age — babbled the 
jargon of their trade. He considered a little 
ravelly strip along one of his cuffs solicitously. 

Ike Webb was saying this — that the biggest 
thing in the whole created world was a big 
scoop — an exclusive, world-beating, bottled-up 
scoop of a scoop. Nothing that could possibly 
come into a reporter's life was one-half so big 
and so glorious and satisfying. He warmed to 
his theme: 

"Gee! fellows, but wouldn't it be great to 
get a scoop on a thing like this Bullard mur- 
der! Just suppose now that one of us, all by 
himself, found the person who did the shooting 
and got a full confession from him, whoever 
he was; and got the gun that it was done 
with — got the w hole thing — and then turned 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



it loose all over the front page before that big 
stiff of a Chief Gotlieb down at Central Station 
knew a thing about it. Beating the police to 
it would be the best part of that job. That's 
the way they do things in New York. In 
New York it's the newspapers that do the 
real work on big murder mysteries, and the 
police take their tips from them. Why, some 
of the best detectives in New York are reporters. 
Look what they did in that Guldensuppe case! 
Look at what they've done in half a dozen 
other big cases! Down here we just follow 
along, like sheep, behind a bunch of fat-necked 
cops, taking their leavings. Up there a 
paper turns a man loose, with an unlimited 
expense account and all the time he needs, and 
tells him to go to it. That's the right way 
too!" 

By that the others knew Ike Webb was 
thinking of what Vogel had told him. Vogel 
was a gifted but admittedly erratic genius 
from the metropolis who had come upon us as 
angels sometimes do — unawares — two weeks 
before, with cinders in his ears and the grime 
of a dusty right-of-way upon his collar. He 
had worked for the sheet two weeks and 
then, on a Saturday night, had borrowed what 
sums of small change he could and under cover 
of friendly night had moved on to parts un- 
known, leaving us dazzled by the careless, 
somewhat patronizing brilHance of his man- 
ner, and stuffed to our eariobes with tales of 
[149] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

the splendid, adventurous, bohemian lives that 
newspaper men in New York lived. 

"Well, I know this," put in little Pinky 
Gilfoil, who was red-headed, red-freckled and 
red-tempered: "I'd give my right leg to pull 
off that Bullard story as a scoop. No, not 
my right leg — a reporter needs aU the legs 
he's got; but I'd give my right arm and throw 
in an eye for good measure. It would be the 
making of a reporter in this town — he'd have 
'em all eating out of his hand after that." He 
licked his lips. Even the bare thought of the 
thing tasted pretty good to Pinky. 

"Now you're whistUng!" chimed Ike Webb. 
"The fellow who single-handed got that tale 
would have a job on this paper as long as he 
lived. The chief would just naturally have 
to hand him more money. In New York, 
though, he'd get a big cash bonus besides, an 
award they call it up there. I'd go anywhere 
and do anything and take any kind of a chance 
to land that story as an exclusive — yes, or 
any other big story." 

To all this the major, it appeared, had been 
listening, for now he spoke up in a pretty fair 
imitation of his old impressive manner: 

"But, young gentlemen — pardon me — do 
you seriously think — any of you — that any 
honorarium, however large, should or could 
be sufficient temptation to induce one in your 
— in our profession — to give utterance in 
print to a matter that he had learned, let us 
[150] ^ 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



say, in confidence? And suppose also that by 
printing it lie brought suffering or disgrace 
upon innocent parties. Unless one felt that 
he was serving the best ends of society — 
imless one, in short, were actuated by the 
highest of human motives — could one afford 
to do such a thing? And, under any circum- 
stances, could one violate a trust — could one 
violate the common obligation of a gentleman's 

rules of deportment " 

"Major," broke in Ike Webb earnestly, "the 
way I look at it, a reporter can't afford too 
many of the luxuries you're mentioning. His 
duty, it seems to me, is to his paper first and 
the rest of the world afterward. His paper 
ought to be his mother and his father and all 
his family. If he gets a big scoop — no mat- 
ter how he gets it or where he gets it — he 
ought to be able to figure out some way of 
getting it into print. It's not alone what he 
owes his paper — it's what he owes himself. 
Personally I wouldn't be interested for a minute 
in bringing the person that killed Rod Bullard 
to justice — that's not the point. He was a 
pretty shady person — Rod Bullard. By all 
accounts he got what was coming to him. It's 
the story itself that I'd want." 

"Say, listen here, major," put in Pinky 
Gilfoil, suddenly possessed of a strengthening 
argument; "I reckon back yonder in the Civil 
War, when you all got the smoke of battle in 
your noses, you didn't stop to consider that 

fisTl 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

you were about to make a large crop of widows 
and orphans and cause suffering to a whole 
slue of innocent people that'd never done you 
any harm! You didn't stop then, did you? 
m bet you didn't — you just sailed in! ^It 
was your duty — the right thing to do — and 
you just went and did it. 'War is hell!' Sher- 
man said. Well, so is newspaper work hell 

— in a way. And smelling out a big story 
ought to be the same to a reporter that the 
smoke of battle is to a soldier. That's right 

— I'll leave it to any fellow here if that ain't 
right!" he wound up, forgetting in his enthu- 
siasm to be grammatical. 

It was an unfortunate simile to be making 
and Pinky should have known better, for at 
Pinky's last words the old major's mild eye 
widened and, expanding himself, he brought 
his chair legs down to the floor with a thump. 

"Ah, yes!" he said, and his voice took on 
still more of its old ringing quality. "Speak- 
ing of battles, I am just reminded, young 
gentlemen, that tomorrow is the anniversary 
of the fall of Vicksburg. Though Northem- 
bom. General Pemberton was a gallant oflScer 

— none of our own Southern leaders was more 
gallant — but it has always seemed to me that 
his flefense of Vicksburg was marked by a 
series of the most lamentable and disastrous 
mistakes. If you care to listen, I will explain 
further." And he squared himself forward, 
wit h one short, plump hand raised, ready to 

[1521 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



tick off his points against Pemberton upon his 
fingers. 

By experience dearly bought at the expense 
of our ear-drums, the members of the Evening 
Press staff knew what that meant; for as you 
already know, the major's conversational spe- 
cialty was the Civil War — it and its cam- 
paigns. Describing it, he made even war a 
commonplace and a tiresome topic. In his hands 
an account of the hardest fought battle became 
a tremendously uninteresting thing. He weeded 
out all the thrills and in their places planted 
hedges of dusty, deadly dry statistics. When 
the major started on the war it was time to be 
going. One by one the youngsters got up and 
slipped out. Presently the major, booming 
away like a bell buoy, became aware that his 
audience had dwindled. Only Ike Webb re- 
mained, and Ike was getting upon his feet and 
reaching for the peg where his coat swung. 

"I'm sorry to leave you right in the middle 
of your story, major; but, honestly, I've got 
to be going," apologized Ike. "Good night, 
and don't forget this, major" — Ike had halted 
at the door — "when a big story comes your 
way freeze to it with both hands and slam it 
across the plate as a scoop. Do that and you 
can give 'em all the laugh. Good night again 
— see you in the morning, major!" 

He grinned to himself as he turned away. 
The major was a mighty decent, tender-hearted 
little old scout, a gentleman by birth and breed- 
[153] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ing, even if he was down and out and dog-poor. 
It was a shame that Devore kept him skitter- 
ing round on Httle picayunish jobs — running 
errands, that was really what it was. Still, 
at that, the old major was no reporter and 
never would be. He wouldn't know a big 
story if he ran into it on the big road — it 
would have to burst right in his face before he 
recognized it. And even then the chances were 
that he wouldn't know what to do with it. It 
was enough to make a fellow grin. 

Deserted by the last of his youthful com- 
patriots — which was what he himself gener- 
ally called them — the major lingered a moment 
in heavy thought. He glanced about the 
cluttered city room, now suddenly grown 
large and empty. This was the theater where 
his own little drama of unfitness and failure 
and private mortification had been staged and 
acted. It had run nearly a month now, and a 
month is a long run for a small tragedy in a 
newspaper oflBce or anywhere else. He shook 
his head. He shook it as though he were trying 
to shake it clear of a job lot of old-fashioned, 
antiquated ideals — as though he were trj^ng 
to make room for newer, more useful, more 
modern conceptions. Then he settled his 
aged and infirm slouch hat more firmly upon 
his round-domed skull, straightened his shoul- 
ders and stumped out. 

At the second turning up the street from the 
office an observant onlooker might have noticed 
[154] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 

a small, an almost imperceptible change in 
the old man's bearing. There was not a sneaky 
bone in the major's body — he walked as he 
thought and as he talked, in straight lines; 
but before he turned the corner he glanced up 
and down the empty sidewalk in a quick, 
furtive fashion, and after he had swung into 
the side street a trifle of the steam seemed 
gone from his stiff-spined, hard-heeled gait. 
It ceased to be a strut; it became a plod. 

The street he had now entered was a badly 
lighted street, with long stretches of murki- 
ness between small patches of gas-lamped 
brilliance. By day the houses that walled it 
would have showed themselves as shabby and 
gone to seed — the sort of houses that second 
cousins move into after first families have 
moved out. Two-thirds of the way along the 
block the major turned in at a sagged gate. 
He traversed a short walk of seamed and 
decrepit flagging, where tufts of rank grass 
sprouted between the fractures in the limestone 
slabs, and mounted the front porch of a house 
that had cheap boarding house written all 
over it. 

When the major opened the front door the 
tepid smell that gushed out to greet him was 
the smell of a cheap boarding house too, if you 
know what I mean — a spilt-kerosene, boiled- 
cabbage, dust-in-the-corners smell. Once upon 
a time the oilcloth upon the floor of the entry 
way had exhibited a vivid and violent pattern 
[1551 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

of green octagons upon a red and yellow 
background, but that had been in some far 
distant day of its youth and freshness. Now 
it was worn to a scaly, crumbly color of 
nothing at all, and it was frayed into fringes 
at the door and in places scuffed clear through, 
so that the knot-holes of the naked planking 
showed like staring eyes. 

Standing just inside the hall, the major 
glanced down first at the floor and then up to 
where in a pendent nub a pinprick of light 
like a captive lightning-bug flickered up and 
down feebly as the air pumped through the 
pipe; and out of his chest the major fetched 
a small sigh. It was a sigh of resignation, 
but it had loneliness in it too. Well, it was a 
come-down, after all these peaceful and con- 
genial years spent among the marble-columned, 
red-plushed glories of the old Gault House, to 
be living in this place. 

The major had been here now almost a month. 
Very quietly, almost secretly, he had come 
hither when he found that by no amount of 
stretching could his pay as a reporter on the 
Evening Press be made to cover the cost of 
living as he had been accustomed to live prior 
to that disastrous day when the major waked 
up in the morning to find that all his inher- 
ited investments had vanished over night — 
and, vanishing so, had taken with them the 
small but sufficient income that had always 

been ample for his needs. 

[1561 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



In that month the major had seen but one 
or two of his fellow lodgers, slouching forms 
that passed him by in the gloom of the 
half-lighted hallways or on the creaky stairs. 
His landlady he saw but once a week — on 
Saturday, which was settlement day. She 
was a forlorn, gray creature, half blind, and 
she felt her way about gropingly. By the 
droop in her spine and by the corners of hei 
lips, permanently puckered from holding pins 
in her mouth, a close observer would have 
guessed that she had been a seamstress before 
her eyes gave out on her and she took to keep- 
ing lodgers. Of the character of the establish- 
ment the innocent old major knew nothing; he 
knew that it was cheap and that it was on a 
quiet by-street, and for his purposes that was 
sufficient. 

He heaved another small sigh and passed 
slowly up the worn steps of the stairwell until 
he came to the top of the house. His room 
was on the attic floor, the middle room of the 
three that lined the bare hall on one side. 
The door-knob was broken off; only its iron 
center remained. His fingers slipped as he 
fumbled for a purchase upon the metal core; 
but finally, after two attempts, he gripped it 
and it turned, admitting him into the dark- 
ness of a stuffy interior. The major made 
haste to open the one small window before 
he lit the single gas jet. Its guttery flare 
exposed a bed, with a thin mattress and a 
[1571 



f* THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

skimpy cover, shoved close up under the 
sloping wall; a sprained chair on its last legs; 
an old horsehide trunk; a shaky washstand of 
cheap yellow pine, garnished forth with an ewer 
and a basin; a limp, frayed towel; and a 
minute segment of pale pink soap. 

Major Stone was in the act of removing his 
coat when he became aware of a certain sound, 
occurring at quick intervals. In the posture 
of a plump and mature robin he cocked his 
head on one side to listen; and now he remem- 
bered that he had heard the same sound the 
night before, and the night before that. These 
times, though, he had heard it intermittently 
and dimly, as he tossed about half awake and 
half asleep, trying to accommodate his elderly 
bones to the irregularities of his hot and un- 
comfortable bed. But now he heard it more 
plainly, and at once he recognized it for what 
it was — the sound of a woman crying; a 
wrenching succession of deep, racking gulps, 
and in between them little moaning, panting 
breaths, as of utter exhaustion — a sound 
such as might be distilled from the very dregs 
of a grief too great to be borne. 

He looked about him, his eyes and ears 
searching for further explanation of this. He 
had it. There was a door set in the cross- 
wall of his room — a door bolted and nailed 
up. It had a transom over it and against the 
dirty glass of the transom a light was reflected, 
and through the door and the transom the 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



sound came. The person in trouble, whoever 
it might be, was in that next room — and that 
person was a woman and she was in dire dis- 
tress. There was a compelling note in her 
sobbing. 

Undecided, Major Stone stood a minute 
rubbing his nose pensively with a small fore- 
finger; then the resolution to act fastened 
upon him. He slipped his coat back on, 
smoothed down his thin mane of reddish 
gray hair with his hands, stepped out into the 
hall and rapped delicately with a knuckled 
finger upon the door of the next room. There 
was no answer, so he rapped a little harder; 
and at that a sob checked itself and broke off 
chokingly in the throat that uttered it. From 
within a voice came. It was a shaken, tear- 
drained voice — flat and uncultivated. 

"Who's there.''" The major cleared his 
throat. "Is it a woman — or a man.''" de- 
manded the unseen speaker without waiting 
for an answer to the first question. 

"It is a gentleman," began the major — "a 
gentleman who " 

"Come on in!" she bade him — "the door 
ain't latched." 

And at that the major turned the knob and 
looked into a room that was practically a coun- 
terpart of his own, except that, instead of a 
trunk, a cheap imitation-leather suitcase stood 
upright on the floor, its sides bulging and 
strained from over-packing. Upon the bed, 
1159] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

fully dressed, was stretched a woman — or, 
rather, a girl. Her head was just rising from 
the crumpled pillow and her eyes, red-rimmed 
and widely distended, stared full into his. 

What she saw, as she sat up, was a short, 
elderly man with a solicitous, gentle face; the 
coat sleeves were turned back off his wrists 
and his linen shirt jutted out between the 
unfastened upper buttons and buttonholes of 
his waistcoat. What the major saw was a 
girl of perhaps twenty or maybe twenty-two — 
in her present state it was hard to guess — 
with hunched-in shoulders and dyed, stringy 
hair falling in a streaky disarray down over 
her face like unraveled hemp. 

It was her face that told her story. Upon 
the drawn cheeks and the drooped, woful lips 
there was no dabbing of cosmetics now; the 
professional smile, painted, pitiable and betray- 
ing, was lacking from the characterless mouth, 
yet the major — sweet-minded, clean-living old 
man though he was — knew at a glance what 
manner of woman he had found here in this 
lodging house. It was the face of a woman 
who never intentionally does any evil and yet 
rarely gets a chance to do any good — a weak, 
indecisive, commonplace face; and every line 
in it was a line of least resistance. 

That then was what these two saw in each 
other as they stared a moment across the 
intervening space. It was the girl who took 

the initiative. 

[160] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



"Are you one of the police?" Then in- 
stantly on the heels of the query: "No; I 
know better'n that — you ain't no poHce!" 

Her voice was unmusical, vulgar and husky 
from much weeping. Magically, though, she 
had checked her sobbing to an occasional hard 
gulp that clicked down in her throat. 

"No, ma'am," said Major Stone, with a 
grave and respectful courtesy, "I am not 
connected with the police department. I am 
a professional man — associated at this time 
with the practice of journalism. I have the 
apartment or chamber adjoining yours and, 
accidentally overhearing a member of the oppo- 
site sex in seeming distress, I took it upon 
myself to offer any assistance that might lie 
within my power. If I am intruding I will 
withdraw." 

"No," she said; "it ain't no intrusion. I 
wisht, please, sir, you'd come in jest a min- 
ute anyway. I feel like I jest got to talk to 
somebody a minute. I'm sorry, though, if 
I disturbed you by my cryin' — but I jest 
couldn't help it. Last night and the night 
before — that was the first night I come here 
— I cried all night purty near; but I kept my 
head in the bedclothes. But tonight, after it 
got dark up here and me layin' here all alone, I 
felt 's if I couldn't stand it no longer. Honest, 
I like to died! Right this minute I'm almost 
plum' distracted." 

The major advan ced a step. 
[1611 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

"I assure you I deeply regret to learn of 
your unhappiness," he said. "If you desire 
it I will be only too glad to summon our 
worthy landlady. Miss — Miss "he paused. 

"Miss La Mode," she said, divining — 
"Blanche La Mode — that's my name. I 
come from Indianapolis, Indiana. But please, 
mister, don't call that there woman. I don't 
want to see her. For a while I didn't think 
I wanted to see nobody, and yit I've known all 
along, from the very first, that sooner or later 
I'd jest naturally have to talk to somebody. 
I knew I'd jest have to!" she repeated wdth a 
kind of weak intensity. "And it might jest 
as well be you as anybody, I guess." 

She sat up on the side of the bed, dangling 
her feet, and subconsciously the major took 
in fuller details of her attire — the cheap white 
sHppers with rickety, womdown high heels; 
the sleazy stockings; the over-decorated skirt 
of shabby blue cloth; the soiled and rumpled 
waist of coarse lace, gaping away from the 
scrawny neck, where the fastenings had pulled 
awry. Looped about her throat and dangling 
down on her flat breast, where they heaved up 
and down with her breathing, was a double 
string of pearls that would have been worth 
ten thousand dollars had they been genuine 
pearls. A hand which was big-knuckled and 
thin held a small, moist wad of handkerchief. 
About her there was something unmistakably 
bucolic, and yet she was town-branded, too, 
[162] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



flesh and soul. Major Stone bowed with the 
ceremonious detail that was a part of him. 

"My name, ma'am, is Stone — Major Put- 
nam Stone, at your service," he told her. 

"Yes, sir," she said, seeming not to catch 
either his name or his title. "Well, mister, 
I'm goin' to tell you something that'll maybe 
surprise you. I ain't goin' to ast you not to 
tell anybody, 'cause I guess you will anyhow, 
sooner or later; and it don't make much dif- 
ference if you do. But seems 's if I can't hold 
in no longer. I guess maybe I'll feel easier in 
my own mind when I git it all told. Shet that 
door — jest close it — the lock is broke — and 
set down in that chair, please, sir." 

The major closed the latchless door and 
took the one tottery chair. The girl remained 
where she was, on the side of her bed, her slip- 
pered feet dangling, her eyes fixed on a spot 
where there was a three-cornered break in the 
dirty-gray plastering. 

"You know about Rodney G. Bullard, the 
lawyer, don't you.'^ — about him bein' found 
shot day before yistiddy evenin' in the mouth 
of that alley?" she asked. 

"Yes, ma'am," he said. "Though I was 
not personally acquainted with the man him- 
self, I am familiar with the circumstances you 
mention." 

"Well," she said, with a sort of jerk behind 
each word, "it was me that done it!" 

"I beg your pardon," he said, half doubt- 
[163] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ing whether he had heard aright, "but what 
was it you said you did?" 

"Shot him!" she answered — "I was the 
one that shot him — with this thing here." 
She reached one hand under the pillow and 
drew out a short-barreled, stubby revolver 
and extended it to him. Mechanically he 
took it, and thereafter for a space he held it 
in his hands. The girl went straight on, pour- 
ing out her sentences with a driven, desperate 
eagerness. 

"I didn't mean to do it, though — God 
knows I didn't mean to do it! He treated me 
mighty sorry — it was lowdown and mean all 
the way through, the way he done me — but I 
didn't mean him no real harm. I was only 
aimin' to skeer him into doin' the right thing 
by me. It was accidental-like — it really was, 
mister! In all my life I ain't never intention- 
ally done nobody any harm. And yit it seems 
like somebody's forever and a day imposin* 
on me!" She quavered with the puny pas- 
sion of her protest against the world that had 
bruised and beaten her as with rods. 

Shocked, stunned, the major sat in a daze, 
making little clucking sounds in his throat. 
For once in his conversational life he couldn't 
think of the right words to say. He fumbled 
the short pistol in his hands. 

"I'm goin' to tell you the whole story, jest 

like it was," she went on in her flat drone; and 

the words she spoke seemed to come to him 
__ 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



from a long way ojff. "That there Rodney 
BuUard he tricked me somethin' shameful. 
He come to the town where I was livin' to make 
a speech in a political race, and we got ac- 
quainted and he made up to me. I was workin' 
in a hotel there — one of the dinin' room help. 
That was two years ago this comin' Septem- 
ber. Well, the next day, when he left, he got 
me to come 'long with him. He said he'd 
look after me. I liked him some then and he 
talked mighty big about what he was goin' 
to do for me; so I come with him. He told 
me that I could be his " She hesitated. 

"His amanuensis, perhaps," suggested the 
old man. 

"Which.?" she said. "No; it wasn't that 
way — he didn't say nothin' about marryin' me 
and I didn't expect him to. He told me that 
I should be his girl — that was all; but he didn't 
keep his word — no, sir; right from the very 
first he broke his word to me! It wasn't 
more'n a month after I got here before he quit 
comin' to see me at all. Well, after that I 
stayed a spell longer at the house where I was 
livin' and then I went to another house — Vic 
Magner's. You know who she is, I reckin?" 

The major half nodded, half shook his head. 

"By reputation only I know the person in 
question," he answered a bit stiffly. 

"Well," she went on, "there ain't so much 

more to tell. I've been sick lately — I had a 

right hard spell. I ain't got my strength all 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

back yit. I was laid up three weeks, and last 
Monday, when I was up and jest barely able 
to crawl round, Vic Magner, she come to me 
and told me that I'd have to git out unless 
I could git somebody to stand good for my 
board. I owed her for three weeks already 
and I didn't have but nine dollars to my name. 
I offered her that, but she said she wanted it 
all or nothin'. I think she wanted to git shet 
of me anyway. Mister, I was mighty weak 
and discouraged — I was so! I didn't know 
what to do. 

"I hadn't seen Rod Bullard for goin' on 
more than a year, but he was the only one I 
could think of; so I slipped out of the house 
and went acrost the street to a grocery store 
where there was a pay station, and I called 
him up on the telephone and ast him to help 
me out a little. It wasn't no more than right 
that he should, was it, seein' as he was respon- 
sible for my comin' here? Besides, if it hadn't 
been for him in the first place I wouldn't never 
'a' got into all that trouble. I talked with 
him over the telephone at his office and he said 
he'd do somethin' for me. He said he'd send 
me some money that evenin' or else he'd bring 
it round himself. But he didn't do neither 
one. And Vic Magner, she kept on doggin' 
after me for her board money. 

"I telephoned him again the next momin'; 
but before I could say more'n two words to 
him he got mad and told me to quit botherin* 
[166] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



him, and he rung off. That was day before 
yistiddy. When I got back to the house Vic 
Magner come to me, and I couldn't give her 
no satisfaction. So about six o'clock in the 
evenin' she made me pack up and git out. I 
didn't have nowheres to go and only eight 
dollars and ninety cents left — I'd spent a 
dime telephonin'; so, before I got out I took 
and wrote Rod BuUard a note, and when I got 
outside I give a little nigger boy fifteen cents 
to take it to him. I told him in the note I 
was out in the street, without nowheres to 
go, and that if he didn't meet me that night 
and do somethin' for me I'd jest have to come 
to his office. I said for him to meet me at 
eight o'clock at the mouth of Grayson Street 
Alley. That give me two hours to wait. I 
walked round and round, packin' my baggage. 

"Then I come by a pawnstore and seen a 
lot of pistols in the window, and I went in and 
I bought one for two dollars and a half. The 
pawnstore man he thro wed in the shells. But 
I wasn't aimin' to hurt Rod Bullard — jest 
to skeer him. I was thinkin' some of killin' 
myself too. Then I walked round some more 
till I was plum' wore out. 

"When eight o'clock come I was waitin* 

where I said, and purty soon he come along. As 

soon as he saw me standin' there in the shadder 

he bulged up to me. He was mighty mad. 

He called me out of my name and said I didn't 

have no claims on h im — a whol e lot more 
— - . 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

like that — and said he didn't purpose to be 
bothered with me phonin* him and writin* him 
notes and callin' on him for money. I said 
somethin' back, and then he made like he 
was goin' to hit me with his fist. I'd had 
that pistol in my hand all the time, holdin' it 
behind my skirt. And I pulled it and I pointed 
it like I was goin' to shoot — jest to skeer him, 
though, and make him do the right thing by 
me. I jest simply pointed it at him — that's 
all. I didn't have no idea it would go oflF 
without you pulled the hammer back first! 

"Then it happened! It went off right in 
my hand. And he said to me: 'Now you've 
done it!' — jest like that. He walked away 
from me about ten feet, and started to lean 
up aginst a tree, and then he fell down right 
smack on his face. And I grabbed up my 
baggage and run away. I wasn't sorry about 
him. I ain't been sorry about him a minute 
since — ain't that funny? But I was awful 
skeered!" 

Rocking her body back and forth from the 
hips, she put her hands up to her face. Major 
Stone stared at her, his mind in a twisting 
eddy of confused thoughts. Perhaps it was 
the clearest possible betrayal of his utter unfit- 
ness for his new vocation in life that not until 
that very moment when the girl had halted her 
narrative did it come to him — and it came 
then with a sudden jolt — that here he had 
one of those monumental news stories for 
fl68j 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



which young Gilfoil or young Webb would be 
willing to barter his right arm and throw in an 
eye for good measure. It was a scoop, as 
those young fellows had called it — an exclu- 
sive confession of a big crime — a thing that 
would mean much to any paper and to any 
reporter who brought it to his paper. It 
would transform a failure into a conspicuous 
success. It would put more money into a pay 
envelope. And he had it all! Sheer luck had 
brought it to him and flung it into his lap. 

Nor was he under any actual pledge of 
secrecy. This girl had told it to him freely, 
of her own volition. It was not in the nature 
of her to keep her secret. She had told it to 
him, a stranger; she would tell it to other 
strangers — or else somebody would betray 
her. And surely this sickly, slack-twisted 
little wanton would be better off inside the 
strong arm of the law than outside it? No 
jury of Southern men would convict her of 
murder — the thought was incredible. She 
would be kindly dealt with. In one illuminat- 
ing flash the major divined that these would 
have been the inevitable conclusions of any 
one of those ambitious young men at the 
office. He bent forward. 

"What did you do then, ma'am?" he asked. 

"I didn't know what to do," she said, drop- 
ping her hands into her lap. "I run till I 
couldn't run no more, and then I walked and 
walked and walked. I reckin I must 'a' walked. 
[169] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

ten miles. And then, when I was jest about to 
drop, I come past this house. There was a 
light burnin' on the porch and I could make 
out to read the sign on the door, and it said 
Lodgers Taken. 

"So I walked in and rung the bell, and when 
the woman came I said I'd jest got here from 
the country and wanted a room. She charged 
me two dollars a week, in advance; and I 
paid her two dollars down — and she showed 
me the way up here. 

**I've been here ever since, except twicet 
when I slipped out to buy me somethin' to eat 
at a grocery store and to git some newspapers. 
At first I figgered the pohce would be a-comin" 
after me; but they didn't — there wasn't 
nobody at all seen the shootin', I reckin. And 
I was skeered Vic Magner might tell on me; 
but I guess she didn't want to run no risk of 
gittin' in trouble herself — that Captain Bren- 
nan, of the Second Precinct, he's been threat- 
enin' to run her out of town the first good 
chance he got. And there wasn't none of the 
other girls there that knowed I ever knew Rod 
Bullard. So, you see, I ain't been arrested 

yit. 

"Layin* here yistiddy aU day, with nothin' 
to do but think and cry, I made up my mind 
I'd kill myself. I tried to do it. I took that 
there pistol out and I put it up to my head 
and I said to myself that all I had to do was 
jest to pull on that trigger thing and it wouldn't 
[1701. 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 

hurt me but a secont — and maybe not that 
long. But I couldn't do it, mister — I jest 
couldn't do it at all. It seemed like I wanted 
to die, and yit I wanted to live too. All my 
life I've been jest that way — first thinkin' 
about doin' one thing and then another, and 
hardly ever doin' either one of 'em. 

"Here on this bed tonight I got to thinkin* 
if I could jest teU somebody about it that maybe 
after that I'd feel easier in my mind. And 
right that very minute you come and knocked 
on the door, and I knowed it was a sign — I 
knowed you was the one for me to tell it to. 
And so I've done it, and already I think I 
feel a little bit easier in my mind. And so 
that's all, mister. But I wisht please you'd 
take that pistol away with you when you go 
— I don't never want to see it again as long 
as I live." 

She paused, huddling herself in a heap upon 
the bed. The major's short arm made a ges- 
ture toward the cheap suitcase. 

"I observe," he said, "that your portman- 
teau is packed as if for a journey. Were you 
thinking of leaving, may I ask?" 

"My which.''" she said. "Oh, you mean 

my baggage! Yes; I ain't never unpacked it 

since I come here. I was aimin' to go back to 

my home — I got a stepsister livin' there and she 

might take me in — only after payin' for this 

room I ain't got quite enough money to take 

me there; and now I don't know as I want to 
__ 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

go, either. If I kin git my strength back I 
might stay on here — I kind of Uke city life. 
Or I might go up to Cincinnati. A girl that 
I used to know here is livin' there now and 
she wrote to me a couple of times, and I know 
her address — it was backed on the envelope. 
Still, I ain't sure — my plans ain't aU made 
yit. Sometimes I think I'll give myself up, 
but most generally I think I won't. I've got 
to do somethin' purty soon though, one way or 
another, because I ain't got but a little over 
three dollars left out of what I had." 

She sank her head in the pillow wearily, 
with her face turned away from him. The 
major stood up. Into his side coat pocket he 
slipped the revolver that had snuffed out the 
late and imsavory Rodney BuUard's light of 
life, and from his trousers pocket he slowly 
drew forth his supply of ready money. He 
had three silver dollars, one quarter, one dime, 
and a nickel — three-forty in all. Contem- 
plating the disks of metal in the palm of his 
hand, he did a quick sum in mental arith- 
metic. This was Thursday night now. Sat- 
urday afternoon at two he would draw a pay 
envelope containing twelve dollars. Mean- 
time he must eat. Well, if he stinted himself 
closely a dollar might be stretched to bridge 
the gap imtil Saturday. The major had 
learned a good deal about the noble art of 
stinting these last few weeks. 

On t he coverlet alongside the girl he softly 

[in] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



piled two of the silver dollars and the forty 
cents in change. Then, after a momentary 
hesitation, he put down the third silver dol- 
lar, gathered up the forty cents, slid it gently 
into his pocket and started for the door, the 
loose planks creaking under his tread. At the 
threshold he halted. 

"Good night. Miss La Mode," he said. "I 
trust your night's repose may be restful and 
refreshing to you, ma'am." 

She lifted her face from the pillow and 
spoke, without turning to look at him. 

"Mister," she said, "I've told you the whole 
truth about that thing and I ain't goin' to lie 
to you about anythin' else. I didn't come 
from Indianapolis, Indiana, like I told you. 
My home is in Swainboro', this state — a 
little town. You might know where it is? 
And my real name ain't La Mode, neither. 
I taken it out of a book — the La Mode part — 
and I always did think Blanche was an awful 
sweet name for a girl. But my real name is 
Gussie Stammer. Good night, mister. I'm 
much obliged to you fer listenin', and I ain't 
goin' to disturb you no more with my cryin' 
if I kin help it." 

As the major gently closed her door behind 
him he heard her give a long, sleepy sigh, like 
a tired child. Back in his own room he glanced 
about him, meanwhile feeling himself over for 
writing material. He found in his pockets a 
pencil and a couple of old letters, whereas he 
[178] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

knew he needed a big sheaf of copy paper for 
the story he had to write. Anyway, there was 
no place here to do an extended piece of writ- 
ing — no desk and no comfortable chair. The 
office would be a much better place. 

The office was only a matter of two or three 
blocks away. The negro watchman would be 
there; he stayed on duty aU night. Using the 
corner of his washstand for a desk, the major 
set down his notes — names, places, details, 
dates — upon the backs of his two letters. 
This done, he settled his ancient hat on his 
head, picked up his cane, and in another min- 
ute was tiptoeing down the stairs and out the 
front doorway. Once outside, his tread took 
on the brisk emphasis of one set upon an 
important task and in a hurry to do it. 

Ten minutes later Major Stone sat at his 
desk in the empty city room of the Evening 
Press. Except for Henry, the old black night 
watchman, there was no other person in the 
building anywhere. Just over his head an 
incandescent bulb blazed, bringing out in strong 
relief the major's intent old face, mullioned 
with crisscross lines. A cedar pencil, newly 
sharpened, was in his fingers; under his right 
hand was a block of clean copy paper. His 
notes lay in front of him, the little stubnosed 
pistol serving as a paper weight to hold the 
two wrinkled envelopes flat. Through the loop 
of the trigger guard the words, Gussie Stam- 
[174] 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



mer, alias Blanche La Mode, showed. Every- 
thing was ready. 

The major hesitated, though. He read- 
justed his paper and fidgeted his pencil. He 
scratched his head and pulled at the little tuft 
of goatee under his lower Hp. Like many 
a more experienced author. Major Stone was 
having trouble getting under way. He had his 
own ideas about a fitting introductory para- 
graph. Coming along, he had thought up a 
full sonorous one, with a biblical injunction 
touching on the wages of sin embodied in it; 
but, on the other hand, there was to be borne 
in mind the daily-dinned injunction of Devore 
that every important news item should begin 
with a sentence in which the whole story was 
summed up. Finally Major Stone made a be- 
ginning. He covered nearly a sheet of paper- 
Then, becoming suddenly dissatisfied with 
it, he tore up what he had written and started 
all over again, only to repeat the same opera- 
tion. Two salty drops rolled down his face 
and fell upon the paper, and instantly little 
twin blistered blobs like tearmarks appeared 
on its clear surface. They were not tears, 
though — they were drops of sweat wrung 
from the major's brow by the pains of creation. 
Again he poised his pencil and again he halted 
it in the air — he needed inspiration. His gaze 
rested absently upon the pistol; absently he 
picked it up and began examining it. 

It was a cheap, rusted, second-hand thing, 
[175] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

poorly made, but no doubt deadly enough at 
close range. He unbreeched it and spun the 
cylinder with his thumb and spilled the con- 
tents into his palm — four loaded shells, suety 
and slick with grease, and one that had been 
recently fired; and it was discolored and 
flattened a trifle. Each of the four loaded 
shells had a small cap like a little round star- 
ing eye set in the exact center of its flanged 
butt-end, but the eye of the fifth shell was 
punched in. He turned the empty weapon in 
his hands, steadying its mechanism, and as 
he did so a scent of burnt powder, stale and 
dead, came to him out of the fouled muzele. 
He wrinkled his nose and sniflFed at it. 

It had been many a long day since the major 
had had that smell in his nostrils — many a 
long, long day. But there had been a time 
when it was familiar enough to him. Even 
now it brought the clamoring memories of that 
far distant time back to him, fresh and vivid. 
It stimulated his imagination, quickening his 
mind with big thoughts. It recalled those 
four years when he had fought for a principle, 
and had kept on fighting even when the sub- 
stance of the thing he fought for was gone 
and there remained but the empty husks. It 
recalled those last few hopeless months when 
the forlorn hope had become indeed a lost 
cause; when the forty cents he now carried in 
his pocket would have seemed a fortune; when 

the sorry house where he lodged now would 
__ 



SMOKE OF BATTLE 



have seemed a palace; when, without pros- 
pect or hope of reward or victory, he kad piled 
risk upon risk, had piled sacrifice upon sacri- 
fice, and through it all had borne it all with- 
out whimper or complaint — fighting the good 
fight like a soldier, keeping the faith like a 
gentleman. It was the Smoke of Battle! 

The major had his inspiration now, right 
enough. He knew just what he would write; 
knew just how he would write it. He laid 
down the pistol and the shells and squared off 
and straightway began writing. For two hours 
neariy he wrote away steadily, rarely changing 
or erasing a word, stopping only to repoint 
the lead of his pencil. Methodically as a ma- 
chine he covered sheet after sheet with his fine 
old-fashioned script. Never for one instant 
did he hesitate or falter. 

Just before one o'clock he finished. The 
completed manuscript, each page of the twenty- 
odd pages properiy numbered, lay in a neat 
pile before him. He scooped up the pistol 
shells and stored them in an inner breast 
pocket of his coat; then he opened a drawer, 
slipped the emptied revolver well back under 
a riffle of papers and clippings and closed the 
) drawer and locked it. His notes he tore into 
squares, and those squares into smaller squares 
— and so on until the fragments would tear 
no finer, but fluttered out between his fingers 
in a small white shower like stage snow. 

He shoved his completed narrative back 
[177] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

under the roll-top of Devore's desk, where the 
city editor would see it the very first thing 
when he came to work; and as he straightened 
up with a Httle grunt of satisfaction and 
stretched his arms out the last of his fine-linen 
shirts, with a rending sound, ripped down the 
plaited front, from collarband almost to waist- 
line. 

He eyed the ruined bosom with a regretful 
stare, plucking at the gaping tear with his 
graphite-dusted fingers and shaking his head 
mournfully. Yet as he stepped out into the 
street, bound for his lodgings, he jarred his 
heels down upon the sidewalk with the brisk, 
snapping gait of a man who has tackled a hard 
job and has done it well, and is satisfied with 
the way he has done it. 

Under a large black head the major's story 
was printed in the Fourth of July edition of 
the Evening Press. It ran full two columns 
and lapped over into a third column. It was 
an exhaustive — and exhausting — account of 
the Fall of Vicksburg. 



[178] 



VI 

THE EXIT OF ANSE 
DUGMORE 



WHEN a Kentucky mountaineer goes 
to the penitentiary the chances are 
that he gets sore eyes from the 
white walls that enclose him, or 
quick consumption from the thick air that he 
breathes. It was entirely in accordance with 
the run of his luck that Anse Dugmore should 
get them both, the sore eyes first and then the 
consumption. 

There is seldom anything that is picturesque 
about the man-killer of the mountain country. 
He is lacking sadly in the romantic aspect 
and the delightfully studied vernacular with 
which an inspired school of fiction has invested 
our Western gun-fighter. No alluring jingle 
of belted accouterment goes with him, no gift 
of deadly humor adorns his equally deadly 
gun-play. He does his killing in an unemotional, 
unattractive kind of way, with absolutely no 
regard for costume or setting. Rarely is he a 
fine figure of a man. 



[179 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Take Anse Dugmore now. He had a short- 
waisted, thin body and abnormally long, thin 
legs, like the shadow a man casts at sunup. 
He didn't have that steel-gray eye of which 
we so often read. His eyes weren't of any 
particular color, and he had a straggly mus- 
tache of sandy red and no chin worth men- 
tioning; but he could shoot off a squirrel's 
head, or a man's, at the distance of a consid- 
erable number of yards. 

Until he was past thirty he played merely 
an incidental part in the tribal war that had 
raged up and down Yellow Banks Creek and 
its principal tributary, the Pigeon Roost, 
since long before the Big War. He was getting 
out timber to be floated down the river on the 
spring rise when word came to him of an 
ambuscade that made him the head of his 
immediate clan and the upholder of his family's 
honor. 

"Yore paw an' yore two brothers was lay- 
waid this mawnin' comin' 'long Yaller Banks 
togither," was the message brought by a breath- 
less bearer of news. "The wimmenfolks air 
totin' 'em home now. Talt, he ain't dead yit.'* 

From a dry spot behind a log Anse lifted his 
rifle and started over the ridge with the long, 
shambling gait of the bom hiU-climber that 
eats up the miles. For this emergency he had 
been schooled years back when he sat by a wood 
fire in a cabin of spUt boards and listened to 
his crrppled-up father reciting the saga of the 
[1801 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

feud, with the tally of this one killed and that 
one maimed; for this he had been schooled 
when he practised with rifle and revolver 
until, even as a boy, his aim had become as 
near an infallible thing as anything human 
gets to be; for this he had been schooled still 
more when he rode, armed and watchful, to 
church or court or election. Its coming found 
him ready. 

Two days he ranged the ridges, watching his 
chance. The Tranthams were hard to find. 
They were barricaded in their log-walled strong- 
holds, well guarded in anticipation of expected 
reprisals, and prepared in due season to come 
forth and prove by a dozen witnesses, or two 
dozen if so many should be needed to establish 
the alibi, that they had no hand in the mas- 
sacre of the Dugmores. 

But two days and nights of still-hunting, 
of patiently lying in wait behind brush fences, 
of noiseless, pussy-footed patrolling in likely 
places, brought the survivor of the decimated 
Dugmores his chance. He caught Pegleg Tran- 
tham riding down Red Bird Creek on a mare- 
mule. Pegleg was only a distant connection of 
the main strain of the enemy. It was probable 
that he had no part in the latest murdering; 
perhaps doubtful that he had any prior knowl- 
edge of the plot. But by his name and his 
blood-tie he was a Trantham, which was enough. 

A writer of the Western school would have 
found little in this encounter that was really 

fiin 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

worth while to write about. Above the place 
of the meeting rose the flank of the mountain, 
scarred with washes and scantily clothed with 
stunted trees, so that in patches the soil showed 
through like the hide of a mangy hound. The 
creek was swollen by the April rains and ran 
bank-full through raw, red walls. Old Peg- 
leg came cantering along with his rifle balanced 
on the sliding withers of his mare-mule, for he 
rode without a saddle. He was an oldish man 
and fat for a mountaineer. A ten-year-old 
neph«w rode behind him, with his short arms 
encircling his uncle's paunch. The old man 
wore a dirty white shirt with a tabbed bosom; 
a single shiny white china button held the neck- 
band together at the back. Below the button 
the shirt billowed open, showing his naked back. 
BUs wooden leg stuck straight out to the side, 
its worn brass tip carrying a blob of red mud, 
and his good leg dangled down straight, with 
the trousers hitched half-way up the bare 
shank and a soiled white-yam sock falling down 
into the wrinkled and gaping top of an ancient 
congress gaiter. 

From out of the woods came Anse Dugmore, 
bareheaded, crusted to his knees with dried 
mud and wet from the rain that had been drip- 
ping down since daybreak. A purpose showed 
in all the lines of his slouchy frame. 

Pegleg jerked his rifle up, but he was ham- 
pered by the boy's arms about his middle and 
by his insecure perch upon the peaks of the 
[182] 



I 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

slabsided mule. The man afoot fired before 
the mounted enemy could swing his gunbarrel 
into line. The bullet ripped away the lower 
part of Pegleg's face and grazed the cheek of 
the crouching youngster behind him. The 
white-eyed nephew slid head first off the buck- 
jumping mule and instantly scuttled on all 
fours into the underbrush. The rifle dropped 
out of Trantham's hands and he lurched for- 
ward on the mule's neck, grabbing out with 
blind, groping motions. Dugmore stepped 
two paces forward to free his eyes of the smoke, 
which eddied back from his gunmuzzle into 
his face, and fired twice rapidly. The mule 
was bouncing up and down, sideways, in a mild 
panic. Pegleg rolled off her, as inert as a sack 
of grits, and lay face upward in the path, with 
his arms wide outspread on the mud. The 
mule galloped off in a restrained and dignified 
style until she was a hundred yards away, 
and then, having snorted the smells of burnt 
powder and fresh blood out of her nostrils, 
she fell to cropping the young leaves off the 
wayside bushes, mouthing the tender green 
shoots on her heavy iron bit contentedly. 

For a long minute Anse Dugmore stood in 
the narrow footpath, listening. Then he slid 
three new shells into his rifle, and slipping down 
the bank he crossed the creek on a jam of 
driftwood and, avoiding the roads that followed 
the little watercourse, made over the shoulder 
of the mountain for his cabin, two miles down 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

on the opposite side. When he was gone 
from sight the nephew of the dead Trantham 
rolled out of his hiding place and fled up the 
road, holding one hand to his wounded cheek 
and whimpering. Presently a gaunt, half-wild 
boar pig, with his spine arched like the moun- 
tains, came sniffing slowly down the hUl, 
pausing frequently to cock his wedge-shaped 
head aloft and fix a hostile eye on two turkey 
buzzards that began to swing in narrowing 
circles over one particular spot on the bank 
of the creek. 

The following day Anse sent word to the 
sheriff that he would be coming in to give 
himself up. It would not have been etiquette 
for the sheriff to come for him. He came 
in, well guarded on the way by certain of his 
clan, pleaded self-defense before a friendly 
county judge and was locked up in a one-cell 
log jail. His own cousin was the jailer and 
ministered to him kindly. He avoided passing 
the single barred window of the jail in the day- 
time or at night when there was a hght behind 
him, and he expected to "come clear" shortly, 
as was customary. 

But the Tranthams broke the rules of the 
game. The circuit judge hved half-way across 
the mountains in a county on the Virginia line; 
he was not an active partizan of either side in 
the feud. These Tranthams, disregarding all 
the ethics, went before this circuit judge and 
asked him for a change of venue, and got it,. 
[184] 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

which was more; so that instead of being tried 
in Clayton County — and promptly acquitted 
— Anse Dugmore was taken to Woodbine 
County and there lodged in a shiny new brick 
jail. Things were in process of change in 
Woodbine. A spur of the railroad had nosed 
its way up from the lowlands and on through 
the Gap, and had made Loudon, the county- 
seat, a division terminal. Strangers from the 
North had come in, opening up the mountains 
to mines and sawmills and bringing with them 
many swarthy foreign laborers. A young 
man of large hopes and an Eastern college 
education had started a weekly newspaper and 
was talking big, in his editorial columns, of 
a new order of things. The foundation had 
even been laid for a graded school. Plainly 
Woodbine County was falling out of touch 
with the century-old traditions of her sisters 
to the north and west of her. 

In due season, then, Anse Dugmore was 
brought up on a charge of homicide. The 
trial lasted less than a day. A jury of strangers 
heard the stories of Anse himself and of the 
dead Pegleg's white-eyed nephew. In the 
early afternoon they came back, a wooden 
toothpick in each mouth, from the new hotel 
where they had just had a most satisfying 
fifty-cent dinner at the expense of the common- 
wealth, and sentenced the defendant, Anderson 
Dugmore, to state prison at hard labor for the 

balance of his natural life. 

[185] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. T R I M M 

but nine years as a tamer of man-beasts in a 
great stone cage had overlaid his sympathies 
with a thickening callus. 

"One of our lifers that we won't have with 
us much longer," he said casually, noting that 
the governor's eyes followed the sick convict. 
"When the con gets one of these hill billies 
he goes mighty fast." 

"A mountaineer, then.'*" said the governor. 
"What's his name?" 

"Dugmore," answered the warden; "sent 
from Clayton County. One of those Clayton 
County feud fighters." 

The governor nodded understandingly. 
"What sort of a record has he made here.'*" 

" Oh, fair enough ! " said the warden. "Those 
man-killers from the mountains generally make 
good prisoners. Funny thing about this fellow, 
though. All the time he's been here he never, 
so far as I know, had a message or a visitor 
or a Une of writing from the outside. Nor 
wrote a letter out himself. Nor made friends 
with anybody, convict or guard." 

"Has he applied for a pardon.'*" asked the 
governor. 

"Lord, no!" said the warden. "When he 
was well he just took what was coming to him, 
the same as he's taking it now. I can look up 
his record, though, if you'd care to see it, sir." 

"I beheve I should," said the governor 
quietly. 

A spectacled young wife-murderer, who 
[1881 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 



worked in the prison office on the prison books, 
got down a book and looked through it until 
he came to a certain entry on a certain page. 
The warden was right — so far as the black 
marks of the prison discipline went, the friend- 
less convict's record showed fair. 

"I think," said the young governor to the 
warden and his secretary when they had moved 
out of hearing of the convict bookkeeper — 
*'I think I'll give that poor devil a pardon for 
a Christmas gift. It's no more than a mercy 
to let him die at home, if he has any home to 
go to." 

"I could have him brought in and let you 
tell him yourself, sir," volunteered the warden. 

"No, no," said the governor quickly. "I 
don't want to hear that cough again. Nor 
look on such a wreck," he added. 

Two days before Christmas the warden sent 
to the hospital ward for No. 874. No. 874, 
that being Anse Dugmore, came shuffling in 
and kept himself upright by holding with one 
hand to the door jamb. The warden sat 
rotund and impressive, in a swivel chair, hold- 
ing in his hands a folded-up, blue-backed 
document. 

"Dugmore," he said in his best official 
manner, "when His Excellency, Governor 
Woodford, was here on Sunday he took notice 
that your general health was not good. So, of his 
own accord, he has sent you an unconditional 
pardon for a Christmas gift, and here it is." 



[189] 



I 



i. 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

like an overgrown measuring worm, up through 
the blue grass, around the outlying knobs of the 
foothills, on and on through the great riven 
chasm of the gateway into a bleak, bare clutch 
of undersized mountains. Anse Dugmore had 
two bad hemorrhages on the way, but he lived. 

Under the full moon of a white and flaw- 
less night before Christmas, Shem Dugmore's 
squatty log cabin made a blot on the thin 
blanket of snow, and inside the one room of 
the cabin Shem Dugmore sat alone by the 
daubed-clay hearth, glooming. Hours passed 
and he hardly moved except to stir the red 
coals or kick back some ambitious ember of 
hickorj' that leaped out upon the uneven 
floor. Suddenly something heavy fell limply 
against the locked door, and instantly, all 
alertness, the shock-headed mountaineer was 
backed up against the farther wall, out of 
range of the two windows, with his weapons 
drawn, silent, ready for what might come. 
After a minute there was a feeble, faint peck- 
ing sound — half knock, half scratch — at the 
lower part of the door. It might have been 
a wornout dog or any spent wild creature, but 
no line of Shem Dugmore's figure relaxed, and 
under his thick, sandy brows his eyes, in the 
flickering light, had the greenish shine of an 
angry cat-animal's. 

"Whut is it?" he called. "And whut do 

you want? Speak out peartly!" 

[192] 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

The answer came through the thick plank- 
ing thinly, in a sort of gasping whine that 
ended in a chattering cough; but even after 
Shem's ear caught the words, and even after 
he recognized the changed but still familiar 
cadence of the voice, he abated none of his 
caution. Carefully he unbolted the door, 
and, drawing it inch by inch slowly ajar, he 
reached out, exposing only his hand and arm, 
and drew bodily inside the shell of a man that 
was fallen, huddled up, against the log door 
jamb. He dropped the wooden crossbar back 
into its sockets before he looked a second time 
at the intruder, who had crawled across the 
floor and now lay before the wide mouth of 
the hearth in a choking spell. Shem Dugmore 
made no move until the fit was over and the 
sufferer lay quiet. 

"How did you git out, Anse?" were the first 
words he spoke. 

The consumptive rolled his head weakly from 
side to side and swallowed desperately. "Par- 
doned out — in writin' — yistiddy." 

"You air in purty bad shape," said Shem. 

"Yes" — the words came very slowly — 
*'my lungs give out on me — and my eyes. 
But — but I got here." 

"You come jist in time," said his cousin; 
"this time tomorrer and you wouldn't a' never 
found me here. I'd 'a' been gone." 

"Gone! — gone whar.?" 

"Well," sa id Shem slowly, "after you was 

[wf] 



' THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

brought him back from the borders of the coma 
he had been fighting off for hours. 

For, to Shem, the best hater and the poorest 
fighter of all his cleaned-out clan, had come 
a great thought. He shook the drowsing man 
and roused him, and plied him with sips from 
a dipper of the unhallowed white corn whisky 
of a mountain still-house. And as he worked 
over him he told off the tally of the last four 
years: of the uneven, unmerciful war, ticking 
off on his blunt finger ends the grim totals of 
this one ambushed and that one killed in the 
open, overpowered and beaten under by weight 
of odds. He told such details as he knew of 
the theft of the young wife and the young ones, 
Elvira and little Anderson. 

"Anse, did ary Trantham see you a-gittin* 
here tonight .f^'* 

"Nobody — that knowed me — seed me." 

"Old Wyatt Trantham, he rid into Man- 
chester this evenin' 'bout fo' o'clock — I seed 
him passin' over the ridge," went on Shem. 
"He'll be ridin' back 'long Pigeon Roost some 
time before mawnin'. He done you a heap o' 
dirt, Anse." 

The prostrate man was listening hard. 

"Anse, I got yore old rifle right here in the 
house. Ef you could git up thar on the mount- 
ing, somewhar's alongside the Pigeon Roost 
trail, you could git him shore. He'll be full 
of licker comin' back." 

And now a seeming marvel was coming to 
[196] 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

pass, for the caved-in trunk was rising on the 
pipestem legs and the shaking fingers were 
outstretched, reaching for something. 

Shem stepped Hghtly to a corner of the cabin 
and brought forth a rifle and began reloading 
it afresh from a box of shells. 

' A wavering figure crept across the small 
stump-dotted "dead'ning" — -Anse Dugmore 
was upon his errand. He dragged the rifle 
by the barrel, so that its butt made a crooked, 
broken furrow in the new snow like the trail 
of a crippled snake. He fell and got up, and 
fell and rose again. He coughed and up the 
ridge a ranging dog-fox barked back an answer 
to his cough. 

From out of the slitted door Shem watched 
him until the scrub oaks at the edge of the 
clearing swallowed him up. Then Shem fas- 
tened himself in and made ready to start his 
flight to the lowlands that very night. 

Just below the forks of Pigeon Roost Creek 
the trail that followed its banks widened into 
a track wide enough for wagon wheels. On 
one side lay the diminished creek, now filmed 
over with a glaze of young ice. On the other 
the mountain rose steeply. Fifteen feet up 
the bluff side a fallen dead tree projected its 
rotted, broken roots, like snaggled teeth, from 
the clayey banl<:. Behind this tree's trunk, in 
the snow and half-frozen, half-melted yellow 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

brought out a toy drum, round and smooth, 
with shiny yellow sides. A cheap china doll 
with painted black ringlets and painted blue 
eyes followed the drum, and then a torn paper 
bag, from which small pieces of cheap red-and- 
green dyed candy sifted out between the 
sheriff's fumbling fingers and fell into the snow. 

Thirty feet away, in the dead leaves matted 
under the roots of an uptorn dead tree, some- 
thing moved — something moved; and then 
there was a sound like a long, deep, gurgling 
sigh, and another sound like some heavy, 
lengthy object settling itself down flat upon 
the snow and the leaves. 

The first faint rustle cleared Trantham's 
brain of the liquor fumes. He jammed the 
toys and the candy back into the saddlebags 
and jerked his horse sidewise into the protect- 
ing shadow of the bluff, reaching at the same 
time to the shoulder holster buckled about 
his body under the unbuttoned overcoat. For a 
long minute he listened keenly, the drawn pistol 
in his hand. There was nothing to hear except 
his own breathing and the breathing of his horse. 

"Sho! Some old hawg turnin' over in her 
bed," he said to the horse, and bolstering 
the pistol he went racking on down Pigeon 
Roost Creek, with Christmas for Elviry and 
little Anderson in his saddlebags. 

When they found Anse Dugmore in his 
ambush another snow had fallen on his back 
[2001 



EXIT OF ANSE DUGMORE 

and he was slightly more of a skeleton than 
ever; but the bony finger was still crooked 
about the trigger, the rusted hammer was back 
at full cock and there was a dried brownish 
stain on the gun stock. So, from these facts, 
his finders were moved to conclude that the 
freed convict must have bled to death from 
his lungs before the sheriff ever passed, which 
they held to be a good thing all round and a 
lucky thing for the sheriff. 



[201 



vn 

THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 



SOME people said Congressman Mal- 
lard had gone mad. These were his 
friends, striving out of the goodness of 
their hearts to put the best face on what 
at best was a lamentable situation. Some said 
he was a traitor to his country. These were his 
enemies, personal, political and journalistic. 
Some called him a patriot who put humanity 
above nationality, a new John the Baptist come 
out of the wilderness to preach a sobering doc- 
trine of world-peace to a world made drunk on 
war. And these were his followers. Of the 
first — ^his friends — there were not many left. 
Of the second group there were millions that 
multiplied themselves. Of the third there had 
been at the outset but a timorous and furtive 
few, and they mostly men and women who 
spoke English, if they spoke it at all, with the 
halting speech and the twisted idiom that 
betrayed their foreign birth; being persons who 
found it entirely consistent to applaud the 

[202] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

preachment of planetic disarmament out of one 
side of their mouths, and out of the other side 
of their mouths to pray for the success at arms 
of the War Lord whose hand had shoved the 
universe over the rim of the chasm. But each 
passing day now saw them increasing in number 
and in audacity. Talking courage to them- 
selves from the courage of their apostle, these,! 
his disciples, were beginning to shout from the! 
housetops what once they had only dared whis- 
per beneath the eaves* Disloyalty no longer 
smouldered; it was blazing up. It crackled,! 
and threw off firebrands. i 

Of all those who sat in judgment upon the 
acts the utterances of the man — and this clas- 
sification would include every articulate creature 
in the United States who was old enough to be 
reasonable — or unreasonable — only a handful 
had the right diagnosis for the case. Here 
and there were to be found men who knew he 
was neither crazed nor inspired; and quite 
rightly they put no credence in the charge that 
he had sold himself for pieces of silver to the 
enemy of his own nation. They knew what 
ailed the Honorable Jason Mallard — that he 
was a victim of a strangulated ambition, of an 
egotistic hernia. He was hopelessly ruptured 
in his vanity. All his life he had lived on love 
of notoriety, and by that same perverted pas- 
sion he was being eaten up. Once he had dili- 
gently besought the confidence and the affec- 
tions of a majority of his fellow citizens ; now he 
[ 203 ] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

seemed bent upon consolidating their hate for 
him into a common flood and laving himself in 
it. Well, if such was his wish he was having it; 
there was no denying that. 

In the prime of his life, before he was fifty, 
it had seemed that almost for the asking the 
presidency might have been his. He had been 
bom right, as the saying goes, and bred right, 
to make suitable presidential timber. He came 
of fine clean blends of blood. His father had 
been a descendant of Norman-English folk who 
settled in Maryland before the Revolution; the 
family name had originally been Maillard, 
afterward corrupted into Mallard. His mother's 
people were Scotch-Irish immigrants of the types 
that carved out their homesteads with axes on 
the spiny haunches of the Cumberlands. In the 
Civil War his father had fought for the Union, 
in a regiment of borderers ; two of his uncles had 
been partisan rangers on the side of the Con- 
federacy. If he was a trifle young to be of that 
generation of public men who were born in 
unchinked log cabins of the wilderness or prai- 
rie-sod shanties, at least he was to enjoy the 
subsequent political advantage of having come 
into the world in a two-room house of unpainted 
pine slabs on the sloped withers of a mountain 
in East Tennessee. As a child he had been 
taken by his parents to one of the states which 
are called pivotal states. There he had grown 
up — farm boy first, teacher of a district school, 
self-taught lawyer, county attorney, state legis- 
[204] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 



lator, governor, congressman for five terms, a 
floor leader of his party — so that by ancestry 
and environment, by the ethics of political 
expediency and political geography, by his own 
record and by the traditions of the time, he was 
formed to make an acceptable presidential 
aspirant. 

In person he was most admirably adapted for 
the role of statesman. He had a figure fit to 
set off a toga, a brow that might have worn a 
crown with dignity. As an orator he had no 
equal in Congress or, for that matter, out of it. 
He was a burning mountain of eloquence, a 
veritable human Vesuvius from whom, at will, 
flowed rhetoric or invective, satire or senti- 
ment, as lava might flow from a living volcano. 
His mind spawned sonorous phrases as a roe 
shad spawns eggs. He was in all outward 
regards a shape of a man to catch the eye, with 
a voice to cajole the senses as with music of 
bugles, and an oratory to inspire. Moreover, 
the destiny which shaped his ends had merci- 
fully denied him that which is a boon to com- 
mon men but a curse to public men. Jason 
Mallard was without a sense of humor. He 
never laughed at others; he never laughed at 
himself. Certain of our public leaders have 
before now fallen into the woful error of doing 
one or both of these things. Wherefore they 
were forever after called humorists and ruined. 
When they said anything serious their friends 
took it humorously, and when they said 



[205] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

anything humorously their enemies took it 
seriously. But Congressman Mallard was safe 
enough there. 

Being what he was — a handsome bundle of 
selfishness, coated over with a fine gloss of 
seeming humility, a creature whose every 
instinct was richly mulched in self-conceit and 
yet one who simulated a deep devotion for 
mankind at large — ^he couldn't make either of 
these mistakes. 

Upon a time the presidential nomination of 
his party — the dominant party, too — had been 
almost within his grasp. That made his losing 
it all the more bitter. Thereafter he became an 
obstructionist, a fighter outside of the lines of 
his own party and not within the lines of the 
opposing party, a leader of the elements of 
national discontent and national discord, a 
mouthpiece for all those who would tear down 
the pillars of the temple because they dislike 
its present tenants. Once he had courted 
popularity; presently — this coming after his 
re-election to a sixth term — he went out of his 
way to win unpopularity. His invectives ate 
in like corrosives, his metaphors bit like adders. 
Always he had been hke a sponge to sop up 
adulation; now he was to prove that when it 
came to withstanding denunciation his hide 
was the hide of a rhino. 

The War came along, and after more than 
two years of it came our entry into it. For the 
most part, in the national capital and out of it, 
[206] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

artificial lines of partisan division were wiped 
out under a tidal wave of patriotism. So far as 
the generality of Americans were concerned, 
they for the time being were neither Democrats 
nor Republicans; neither were they Socialists 
nor Independents nor Prohibitionists. For the 
duration of the war they were Americans, 
actuated by a common purpose and stirred by 
a common danger. Afterward they might be, 
politically speaking, whatever they chose to be, 
but for the time being they were just Ameri- 
cans. Into this unique condition Jason Mallard 
projected himself, an upstanding reef of oppo- 
sition to break the fine continuity of a mighty 
ground swell of national unity and national 
harmony. 

Brilliant, formidable, resourceful, seemingly 
invulnerable, armored in apparent disdain for 
the contempt and the indignation of the 
masses of the citizenship, he fought against and 
voted against the breaking off of diplomatic 
relations with Germany; fought against the 
draft, fought against the war appropriations, 
fought against the plans for a bigger navy, the 
plans for a great army; fought the first Liberty 
Loan and the second; he fought, a httle later, 
against a declaration of war with Austro- 
Hungary. And, so far as the members of 
Congress were concerned, he fought practically 
single-handed. 

His vote, cast in opposition to the will of the 
majority, meant nothing; his voice raised in 
[207] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

opposition meant much. For very soon the 
avowed pacifists and the secret protagonists of 
Kultur, the blood-eyed anarchists and the lily- 
Kvered dissenters, the conscientious objectors 
and the conscienceless I. W. W. group, saw in 
him a buttress upon which to stay their cause. 
The lone wolf wasn't a lone wolf any longer — 
he had a pack to rally about him, yelping ap- 
proval of his every word. Day by day he grew 
stronger and day by day the sinister elements 
behind him grew bolder, echoing his challenges 
against the Government and against the war. 
With practically every newspaper in America, 
big and little, fighting him; with every influen- 
tial magazine fighting him; with the leaders of 
the Administration fighting him — he neverthe- 
less loomed on the national sky hne as a great 
sinister figure of defiance and rebellion. 

Deft word chandlers of the magazines and 
the daily press coined terms of opprobrium for 
him. He was the King of the Copperheads, the 
Junior Benedict Arnold, the Modem Judas, the 
Second Aaron Burr; these things and a hundred 
others they called him; and he laughed at hard 
names and in reply coined singularly apt and 
cruel synonyms for the more conspicuous of his 
critics. The oldest active editor in the country 
— and the most famous — called upon the body 
of which he was a member to impeach him for 
acts of disloyalty, tending to give aid and com- 
fort to the common enemy. The great presi- 
dent of a great university suggested as a propter 
[208] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

remedy for what seemed to ail this man Mallard 
that he be shot against a brick wall some fine 
morning at sunrise. At a monster mass 
meeting held in the chief city of Mallard's 
home state, a mass meeting presided over by 
the governor of that state, resolutions were 
unanimously adopted calling upon him to 
resign his commission as a representative. His 
answer to all three was a speech which, as 
translated, was shortly thereafter printed in 
pamphlet form by the Berlin Lokal-Anzeiger 
and circulated among the German soldiers at 
the Front. 

For you see Congressman Mallard felt safe, 
and Congressman Mallard was safe. His 
buckler was the right of free speech; his sword, 
the argument that he stood for peace through 
all the world, for arbitration and disarmament 
among all the peoples of the world. 

It was on the evening of a day in January of 
the year 1918 that young Drayton, Wash- 
ington correspondent for the New York Epoch, 
sat in the office of his bureau on the second 
floor of the Hibbett Building, revising his 
account of a scene he had witnessed that after- 
noon from the press gallery of the House. He 
had instructions from his managing editor to 
cover the story at length. At ten o'clock he 
had finished what would make two columns in 
type and was polishing off his opening para- 
graphs before putting the manuscript on the 
[209] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

wire when the door of his room opened and a 
man came in — a shabby, tremulous figure. 
The comer was Quinlan. 

Quinlan was forty years old and looked fifty. 
Before whisky got him Quinlan had been a great 
newspaper man. Now that his habits made it 
impossible for him to hold a steady job he was 
become a sort of news tipster. Occasionally 
also he did small lobbying of a sort; his acquain- 
tance with public men and his intimate knowl- 
edge of Washington officialdom served him in 
both these precarious fields of endeavor. The 
liquor he drank — whenever and wherever he 
could get it — had bloated his face out of all 
wholesome contour and had given to his stom- 
ach a chronic distention, but had depleted his 
frame and shrunken his limbs so that physically 
he was that common enough type of the hope- 
less alcoholic — a meagre rack of a man bur- 
dened amidships by an unhealthy and dropsical 
plumpness. 

At times when he was not completely sod- 
den — when he had in him just enough whisky to 
stimulate his soaked brain, and yet not enough 
oi it to make him maudlin — he displayed 
flashes of a one-time brilliancy which by con- 
trast with his usual state made the ruinous thing 
he had done to himself seem all the more 
pitiable. 

Drayton of the Epoch was one of the news- 
paper men upon whom he sponged. Always 
preserving the fiction that he was borrowing 

[2101 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

because of temporary necessity, he got small 
smns of money out of Drayton from time to 
time, and in exchange gave the younger man 
bits of helpful information. It was not so 
much news that he furnished Drayton as it was 
insight into causes working behind political and 
diplomatic events. He came in now without 
knocking and stood looking at Drayton with an 
ingratiating flicker in his dulled eyes. 

"Hello, Quinlan !" said Drayton. "What's on 
your mind to-night?" 

"Nothing, until you get done there," said 
Quinlan, letting himself lop down into a chair 
across the desk from Drayton. "Go ahead 
and get through. I've got nowhere to come 
but in, and nowhere to go but out." 

"I'm just putting the final touches on my 
story of Congressman Mallard's speech," said 
Drayton. "Want to read my introduction?" 

Privately Drayton was rather pleased with 
the job and craved approval for his craftsman- 
ship from a man who still knew good writing 
when he saw it, even though he could no longer 
write it. 

"No, thank you," said Quinlan. "All I ever 
want to read about that man is his obituary." 

"You said it!" agreed Drayton. "It's what 
most of the decent people in this country are 
thinking, I guess, even if they haven't begun 
saying it out loud yet. It strikes me the Ameri- 
can people are a mighty patient lot — putting up 
with that demagogue. That was a rotten thing 
[211] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

that happened up on the hill to-day, Quinlan — a 
damnable thing. Here was Mallard making the 
best speech in the worst cause that ever I heard, 
and getting away with it too. And there was 
Richland trying to answer him and in compari- 
son making a spectacle of himself — Richland 
with all the right and all the decency on his 
side and yet showing up like a perfect dub along- 
side Mallard, because he hasn't got one-tenth of 
Mallard's ability as a speaker or one-tenth of 
Mallard's personal fire or stage presence or 
magnetism or whatever it is that makes Mallard 
so plausible — and so dangerous." 

"That's all true enough, no doubt," said 
Quinlan; "and since it is true why don't the 
newspapers put Mallard out of business?" 

"Why don't the newspapers put him out of 
business !" echoed Drayton. "Why, good Lord, 
man, isn't that what they've all been trying to 
do for the last six months.? They call him every 
name in the calendar, and it all rolls off him Hke 
water off a duck's back. He seems to get 
nourishment out of abuse that would kill any 
other man. He thrives on it, if I'm any judge. 
I believe a hiss is music to his ears and a curse is 
a hushaby, lullaby song. Put him out of busi- 
ness? Why say, doesn't nearly every editorial 
writer in the country jump on him every day, 
and don't all the paragraphers give at him, and 
don't all the cartoonists lampoon him, and 
don't all of us who write news from down here 
in Washington give him the worst of it in 
[212] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

our despatches? . . . And what's the result? 
Mallard takes on flesh and every red-mouthed 
agitator in the country and every mushy- 
brained peace fanatic and every secret German 
sympathizer trails at his heels, repeating what 
he says. I'd like to know what the press of 
America hasn't done to put him out of busi- 
ness! 

"There never was a time, I guess, when the 
reputable press of this country was so united in 
its campaign to kill off a man as it is now in its 
campaign to kill off Mallard. No paper gives 
him countenance, except some of these foreign- 
language rags and these dirty little disloyal 
sheets; and until here just lately even they 
didn't dare to come out in the open and applaud 
him. Anyway, who reads them as compared 
with those who read the real newspapers and the 
real magazines? Nobody! And yet he gets 
stronger every day. He's a national menace — 
that's what he is." 

"You said it again, son," said Quinlan. 

"Six months ago he was a national nuisance 
and now he's a national menace; and who's 
responsible — or, rather, what's responsible — for 
him being a national menace? Well, I'm going 
to tell you; but first I'm going to tell you some- 
thing about Mallard. I've known him for 
twelve years, more or less — ever since he came 
here to Washington in his long frock coat that 
didn't fit him and his big black slouch hat and 
his white string tie and in all the rest of the 
[ 213 1 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

regalia of the counterfeit who's trying to fool 
people into believing he's part tribune and part 
peasant." 

"You wouldn't call Mallard a counterfeit, 
would you? — a man with the gifts he's got," 
broke in Drayton. "I've heard him called 
everything else nearly in the English language, 
but you're the first man that ever called him a 
counterfeit, to my knowledge!" 

"Counterfeit? Why, he's as bogus as a 
pewter dime," said Quinlan. "I tell you I 
know the man. Because you don't know him 
he's got you fooled the same as he's got so 
many other people fooled. Because he looks 
like a steel engraving of Henry Clay you think 
he is a Henry Clay, I suppose — anyhow, a lot 
of other people do; but I'm telling you his 
resemblance to Henry Clay is all on the outside 
— it doesn't strike in any farther than the hair 
roots. He calls himself a self-made man. Well, 
he's not, he's self-assembled, that's all. He's 
made up of standardized and interchangeable 
parts. He's compounded of something bor- 
rowed from every political mountebank who's 
pulled that old bunk about being a friend of the 
great common people and gotten away with it 
during the last fifty years. He's not a real 
genius. He's a synthetic genius. 

"There are just two things about Mallard 

that are not spurious — two things that make 

up the real essence and tissue of him: One is 

his genius as a speaker and the other is his 

[214] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

vanity; and the bigger of these, you take it 
from me, is his vanity. That's the thing he 
feeds on — vanity. It's the breath in his nos- 
trils, it's the savor and the salt on his daily 
bread. He lives on publicity, on notoriety. 
And yet you, a newspaper man, sit here wonder- 
ing how the newspapers could kill him, and 
never guessing the real answer." 

"Well, what is the answer then?" demanded 
Drayton. 

"Wait, I'm coming to that. The press is 
always prating about the power of the press, 
always nagging about pitiless publicity being 
potent to destroy an evil thing or a bad man, 
and all that sort of rot. And yet every day the 
newspapers give the lie to their own boastings. 
It's true, Drayton, that up to a certain point 
the newspapers can make a man by printing 
favorable things about him. By that same 
token they imagine they can tear him down by 
printing unfavorable things about him. They 
think they can, but they can't. Let them get 
together in a campaign of vituperation against 
a man, and at once they set everybody to talk- 
ing about him. Then let them carry their 
campaign just over a psychological dividing 
line, and right away they begin, against their 
wills, to manufacture sentiment for him. The 
reactions of printer's ink are stronger somehow 
than its original actions — its chemical processes 
acquire added strength in the back kick. What 
has saved many a rotten criminal in this coun- 

[2151 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

try from getting his just deserts? It wasn't the 
fact that the newspapers were all for him. It 
was the fact that all the newspapers were 
against him. The imder dog may be ever so 
bad a dog, but only let enough of us start kick- 
ing him all together, and what's the result? 
Sympathy for him — that's what. Calling 'Un- 
clean, unclean!' after a leper never yet made 
people shun him. It only makes them crowd up 
closer to see his sores. I'll bet if the facts were 
known that was true two thousand years ago. 
Certainly it's true to-day, and human nature 
doesn't change. 

"But the newspapers have one weapon 
they've never yet used; at least as a unit they've 
never used it. It's the strongest weapon they've 
got, and the cheapest, and the most terrible, 
and yet they let it lie in its scabbard and rust. 
With that weapon they could destroy any 
human being of the type of Jason Mallard in 
one-twentieth of the time it takes them to build 
up public opinion for or against him. And yet 
the}'' can't see it — or won't see that it's there, 
all forged and ready in their hands." 

"And that weapon is what?" asked Dray- 
ton. 

"Silence. Absolute, utter silence. Silence is 
the loudest thing in the world. It thunders 
louder than the thunder. And it's the dead- 
liest. What drives men mad who are put in 
solitary confinement? The darkness? The 
solitude? Well, they help. But it's silence 
[216] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 



that does the trick — silence that roars in their 
ears until it cracks their eardrums and addles 
their brains. 

"Mallard is a national peril, we'll concede. 
Very well then, he should be destroyed. And 
the surest, quickest, best way for the newspa- 
pers to destroy him is to wall him up in silence, 
to put a vacuum bell of silence down over him, 
to lock him up in silence, to bury him alive in 
silence. And that's a simpler thing than it 
sounds. They have, all of them, only to do one 
little thing — just quit printing his name." 

"But they can't quit printing his name, 
Quinlan !" exclaimed Drayton. "Mallard's new; 
he's the biggest figure in the news that there is 
to-day in this country." 

"That's the same foolish argument that the 
average newspaper man would make," said 
Quinlan scornfully. "Mallard is news because 
the newspapers make news of him — and for no 
other reason. Let them quit, and he isn't news 
any more — he's a nonentity, he's nothing at all, 
he's null and he's void. So far as public opinion 
goes he will cease to exist, and a thing that has 
ceased to exist is no longer news — once you've 
printed the funeral notice. Every popular 
thing, every conspicuous thing in the world is 
born of notoriety and fed on notoriety — news- 
paper notoriety. Notoriety is as essential to 
the object of notoriety itself as it is in fashion- 
ing the sentiments of those who read about it. 
And there's just one place where you can get 
{217] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

wholesale, nation-wide notoriety to-day — out 
of the jaws of a printing press. 

"We call baseball our national pastime — 
granted! But let the newspapers, all of them, 
during one month of this coming spring, quit 
printing a word about baseball, and you'd see 
the parks closed up and the weeds growing on 
the base lines and the turnstiles rusting solid.' 
You remember those deluded ladies who almost 
did the cause of suflFrage some damage last year 
by picketing the White House and bothering the 
President when he was busy with the biggest 
job that any man had tackled in this country 
since Abe Lincoln? Remember how they raised 
such a hullabaloo when they were sent to the 
workhouse? Well, suppose the newspapers, in- 
stead of giving them front-page headlines and 
columns of space every day, had refused to 
print a line about them or even so much as to 
mention their names. Do you believe they 
would have stuck to the job week after week as 
they did stick to it? I tell you they'd have 
quit cold inside of forty-eight hours. 

"Son, your average latter-day martyr en- 
dures his captivity with fortitude because he 
knows the world, through the papers, is going 
to hear the pleasant clanking of his chains. 
Otherwise he'd burst from his cell with a disap- 
pointed yell and go out of the martyr business 
instanter. He may not fear the gallows or the 
stake or the pillory, but he certainly does love 
his press notices. He may or may not keep the 
[218] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

faith, but you can bet he always keeps a scrap- 
book. Silence — that's the thing he fears more 
than hangman's nooses or firing squads. 

"And that's the cure for your friend, Jason 
Mallard, Esquire. Let the press of this country 
put the curse of silence on him and he's done 
for. Silence will kill ofiF his cause and kill off 
his following and kill him off. It will kill him 
politically and figuratively. I'm not sure, 
knowing the man as I do, but what it will kill 
him actually. Entomb him in silence and he'll 
be a body of death and corruption in two weeks. 
Just let the newspapers and the magazines pro- 
vide the grave, and the corpse will provide 
itself." 

Drayton felt himself catching the fever of 
Quinlan's fire. He broke in eagerly. 

"But, Quinlan, how could it be done?" he 
asked. "How could you get concerted action 
for a thing that's so revolutionary, so unpre- 
cedented, so " 

"This happens to be one time in the history 
of the United States when you could get it," 
said the inebriate. "You could get it because 
the press is practically united to-day in favor 
of real Americanism. Let some man like your 
editor-in-chief, Fred Core, or like Carlos Seers 
of the Era, or Manuel Oxus of the Period, or 
Malcolm Flint of the A. P. call a private meet- 
ing in New York of the biggest individual pub- 
lishers of daily papers and the leading magazine 
publishers and the heads of all the press asso- 
{219] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

(nations and news syndicates, from the big fel- 
lows clear down to the shops that sell boiler 
plate to the country weeklies with patent in- 
sides. Through their concerted influence that 
crowd could put the thing over in twenty-four 
hours. They could line up the Authors' League, 
line up the defence societies, line up the national 
advertisers, line up organized labor in the 
printing trades — line up everybody and every- 
thing worth while. Oh, it could be done — 
make no mistake about that. Call it a boy- 
cott; call it coercion, mob law, lynch law, any- 
thing you please — it's justifiable. And there'd 
be no way out for Mallard. He couldn't bring 
an injunction suit to make a newspaper pub- 
lisher print his name. He couldn't buy adver- 
tising space to tell about himself if nobody 
would sell it to him. There's only one thing he 
could do — and if I'm any judge he'd do it, 
sooner or later." 

Young Drayton stood up. His eyes were 
blazing. 

"Do you know what I'm going to do, Quin- 
lan?" he asked. "I'm going to run up to New 
York on the midnight train. If I can't get a 
berth on a sleeper I'll sit up in a day coach. 
I'm going to rout Fred Core out of bed before 
breakfast time in the morning and put this 
thing up to him just as you've put it up to me 
here to-night. If I can make him see it as 
you've made me see it, he'll get busy. If he 
doesn't see it, there's no harm done. But in 
fiiol 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

any event it's your idea, and I'll see to it that 
you're not cheated out of the credit for it." 

The dipsomaniac shook his head. The flame 
of inspiration had died out in Quinlan; he was 
a dead crater again — a drunkard quivering for 
the lack of stimulant. 

"Never mind the credit, son. What was it 
wise old Omar said — 'Take the cash and let 
the credit go'? — something like that anyhow. 
You run along up to New York and kindle the 
fires. But before you start I wish you'd loan 
me about two dollars. Some of these days when 
my luck changes I'll pay it all back. I'm keep- 
ing track of what I owe you. Or say, Drayton 
— make it five dollars, won't you, if you can 
spare it?" 



Beforehand there was no announcement of 
the purpose to be accomplished. The men in 
charge of the plan and the men directly under 
them, whom they privily commissioned to 
carry out their intent, were all of them sworn 
to secrecy. And all of them kept the pledge. 
On a Monday Congressman Mallard's name 
appeared in practically every daily paper in 
America, for it was on that evening that he was 
to address a mass meeting at a hall on the Lower 
West Side of New York — a meeting ostensibly 
to be held under the auspices of a so-called 
society for world peace. But sometime during 
Monday every publisher of every newspaper 
and periodical, of every trade paper, every 
[ 221 1 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

religious paper, every farm paper in America, 
received a telegram from a certain address in 
New York. This telegram was marked Con- 
fidential. It was signed by a formidable list of 
names. It was signed by three of the most dis- 
tinguished editors in America; by the heads of 
all the important news-gathering and news- 
distributing agencies; by the responsible heads 
of the leading feature syndicates; by the presi- 
dents of the two principal telegraph companies; 
by the presidents of the biggest advertising 
agencies; by a former President of the United 
States; by a great Catholic dignitary; by a 
great Protestant evangelist, and by the most 
eloquent rabbi in America; by the head of the 
largest banking house on this continent; by a 
retired military officer of the highest rank; by 
a national leader of organized labor; by the 
presidents of four of the leading universities; 
and finally by a man who, though a private 
citizen, was popularly esteemed to be the mouth- 
piece of the National Administration. 

While this blanket telegram was travelling 
over the wires a certain magazine publisher 
was stopping his presses to throw out a special 
article for the writing of which he had paid 
fifteen hundred dollars to the best satirical 
essayist in the country; and another publisher 
was countermanding the order he had given to 
a distinguished caricaturist for a series of car- 
toons all dealing with the same subject, and 
was tearing up two of the cartoons which had 
[ 222 1 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

already been delivered and for which he already 
had paid. He offered to pay for the cartoons 
not yet drawn, but the artist declined to accept 
further payment when he was told in confidence 
the reason for the cancellation of the commis- 
sion. 

On a Monday morning Congressman Jason 
Mallard's name was in every paper; his picture 

was in many of them. On the day following 

But I am getting ahead of my story. Monday 
evening comes before Tuesday morning, and 
first I should tell what befell on Monday evening 
down on the Lower West Side. 

That Monday afternoon Mallard came up 
from Washington; only his secretary came 
with him. Three men — the owner of a publi- 
cation lately suppressed by the Post OflBce 
Department for seditious utterances, a former 
clergyman whose attitude in the present crisis 
had cost him his pulpit, and a former college 
professor of avowedly anarchistic tendencies — 
met him at the Pennsylvania Station. Of the 
three only the clergyman had a name which 
bespoke Anglo-Saxon ancestry. These three 
men accompanied him to the home of the edi- 
tor, where they dined together; and when the 
dinner was ended an automobile bore the party 
through a heavy snowstorm to the hall where 
Mallard was to speak. 

That is to say, it bore the party to within a 
block and a half of the hall. It could get no 
nearer than that by reason of the fact that the 
[ 223 1 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

narrow street from house line on one side to 
kouse line on the other was jammed with men 
and women, thousands of them, who, coming 
too late to secure admission to the hall — the 
hall was crowded as early as seven o'clock — had 
stayed on, outside, content to see their cham- 
pion and to cheer him since they might not 
hear him. They were half frozen. The snow 
in which they stood had soaked their shoes 
and chilled their feet; there were holes in the 
shoes which some of them wore. The snow 
stuck to their hats and clung on their shoulders, 
making streaks there like fleecy epaulets done 
in the color of peace, which also is the color 
of cowardice and surrender. There was a cold 
wind which made them all shiver and set the 
teeth of many of them to chattering; but they 
had waited. 

A squad of twenty-odd policemen, aligned 
in a triangular formation about Mallard and 
his sponsors and, with Captain Bull Hargis of 
the Traffic Squad as its massive apex, this 
human ploughshare literally slugged a path 
through the mob to the side entrance of the hall. 
By sheer force the living wedge made a furrow 
in the multitude — a furrow that instantly closed 
in behind it as it pressed forward. Undoubtedly 
the policemen saved Congressman Mallard from 
being crushed and bujffeted down under the 
caressing hands of those who strove with his 
bodyguard to touch him, to embrace him, to 
clasp his hand. Foreign-born women, whose 
[224] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 



sons were in the draft, sought to kiss the hem of 
his garments when he passed them by, and as 
they stooped they were bowled over by the uni- 
formed burlies and some of them were trampled. 
Disregarding the buffeting blows of the police- 
men's gloved fists, men, old, young and middle- 
aged, flung themselves against the escorts, cry- 
ing out greetings. Above the hysterical yelling 
rose shrill cries of pain, curses, shrieks. Gut- 
tural sounds of cheering in snatchy fragments 
were mingled with terms of approval and of en- 
dearment and of affection uttered in English, in 
German, in Russian, in Yiddish and in Finnish. 

Afterward Captain Bull Hargis said that 
never in his recollection of New York crowds 
had there been a crowd so hard to contend 
against or one so diflScult to penetrate; he said 
this between gasps for breath while nursing a 
badly sprained thumb. The men under him 
agreed with him. The thing overpassed any- 
thing in their professional experiences. Several 
of them were veterans of the force too. 

It was a dramatic entrance which Congress- 
man Mallard made before his audience within 
the hall, packed as the hall was, with its air all 
hot and sticky with the animal heat of thousands 
of closely bestowed human bodies. Hardly 
could it have been a more dramatic entrance. 
From somewhere in the back he suddenly came 
out upon the stage. He was bareheaded and 
bare-throated. Outside in that living whirl- 
pool his soft black hat had been plucked from 



[225lj 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

his head and was gone. His collar, tie and all, 
had been torn from about his neck, and the 
same rudely affectionate hand that wrested the 
collar away had ripped his linen shirt open so 
that the white flesh of his chest showed through 
the gap of the tear. His great disorderly mop 
of bright red hair stood erect on his scalp like 
an oriflamme. His overcoat was half on and 
half off his back. 

At sight of him the place rose at him, howling 
out its devotion. He flung off his overcoat, 
letting it fall upon the floor, and he strode for- 
ward almost to the trough of the footlights; and 
then for a space he stood there on the rounded 
apron of the platform, staring out into the 
troubled, tossing pool of contorted faces and 
tossing arms below him and about him. Dema- 
gogue he may have been; demigod he looked in 
that, his moment of supreme triumph, biding his 
time to play upon the passions and the preju- 
dices of this multitude as a master organist 
would play upon the pipes of an organ. Here 
was clay, plastic to his supple finger — here in the 
seething conglomerate of half-baked intellec- 
tuals, of emotional rebels against constituted 
authority, of alien enemies, of malcontents and 
malingerers, of parlor anarchists from the 
studios of Bohemianism and authentic an- 
archists from the slums. 

Ten blaring, exultant minutes passed before 
the ex-clergyman, who acted as chairman, could 
secure a measure of comparative quiet. At 
[226] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

length there came a lull in the panting tumult. 
Then the chair made an announcement which 
brought forth in fuller volume than ever a 
responsive roar of approval. He announced that 
on the following night, and on the night after. 
Congressman Mallard would speak at Madison 
Square Garden, under the largest roof on Man- 
hattan Island. The committee in charge had 
been emboldened by the size of this present 
outpouring to engage the garden; the money to 
pay the rent for those two nights had already 
been subscribed; admission would be free; all 
would be welcome to come and — quoting the 
chairman — "to hear the truth about the war 
into which the Government, at the bidding of 
the capitalistic classes, had plunged the people 
of the nation." Then in ten words he intro- 
duced the speaker, and as the speaker raised his 
arms above his head invoking quiet, there fell, 
magically, a quick, deep, breathless hush upon 
the palpitant gathering. 

"And this" — he began without preamble in 
that great resonant voice of his, that was like a 
blast of a trumpet — "and this, my countrymen, 
is the answer which the plain people of this 
great city make to the corrupted and mis- 
guided press that would crucify any man who 
dares defy it." 

He spoke for more than an hour, and when he 
was done his hearers were as madmen and mad- 
women. And yet so skilfully had he phrased his 
utterances, so craftily had he injected the hot 
[227] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

poison, SO deftly had he avoided counselling 
outright disobedience to the law, that sundry 
secret-service men who had been detailed to 
attend the meeting and to arrest the speaker. 
United States representative though he be, in 
case he preached a single sentence of what might 
be interpreted as open treason, were com- 
pletely circumvented. 

It is said that on this night Congressman 
Mallard made the best speech he ever made in 
his whole life. But as to that we cannot be 
sure, and for this reason: 

On Monday morning, as has twice been stated 
in this account. Congressman Mallard's name 
was in every paper, nearly, in America. On 
Tuesday morning not a line concerning him or 
concerning his speech or the remarkable demon- 
stration of the night before — not a line of news, 
not a line of editorial comment, not a para- 
graph — api>eared in any newspaper printed 
in the English language on this continent. The 
silent war had started. 

Tuesday evening at eight-fifteen Congressman 
Mallard came to Madison Square Garden, 
accompanied by the honor guard of his spon- 
sors. The police department, taking warning 
by what had happened on Monday night down 
on the West Side, had sent the police reserves 
of four precincts — six hundred uniformed men, 
under an inspector and three captains — to 
handle the expected congestion inside and out- 
side the building. These six hundred men had 
[J881 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

little to do after they formed their lines and 
lanes except to twiddle their night sticks and to 
stamp their chilled feet. 

For a strange thing befell. Thousands had 
participated in the affair of the night before. 
By word of mouth these thousands most surely 
must have spread the word among many times 
their own number of sympathetic individuals. 
And yet — this was the strange part — by actual 
count less than fifteen hundred j>ersons, exclu- 
sive of the policemen, who were there because 
their duty sent them there, attended Tuesday 
night's meeting. To be exact there were four- 
teen hundred and seventy-five of them. In the 
vast oval of the interior they made a ridicu- 
lously small clump set midway of the area, 
directly in front of the platform that had been 
put up. All about them were wide reaches of 
seating space — empty. The place was a huge 
vaulted cavern, cheerless as a cave, full of cold 
drafts and strange echoes. Congressman Mal- 
lard spoke less than an hour, and this time he 
did not make the speech of his life. 

Wednesday night thirty policemen were on 
duty at Madison Square Garden, Acting Cap- 
tain O'Hara of the West Thirtieth Street Sta- 
tion being in command. Over the telephone to 
headquarters O'Hara, at eight-thirty, reported 
that his tally accounted for two hundred and 
eighty-one persons present. Congressman Mal- 
lard, he stated, had not arrived yet, but was 
momentarily expected. 

[229] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

At eight-forty-five O'Hara telephoned again. 
Congressman Mallard had just sent word that 
he was ill and would not be able to speak. This 
message had been brought by Professor Ras- 
covertus, the former college professor, who had 
come in a cab and had made the bare announce- 
ment to those on hand and then had driven 
away. The assembled two hundred and eighty- 
one had heard the statement in silence and forth- 
with had departed in a quiet and orderly man- 
ner. O'Hara asked permission to send his men 
back to the station house. 

Congressman Mallard returned to Washing- 
ton on the midnight train, his secretary accom- 
panying him. Outwardly he did not bear him- 
self like a sick man, but on his handsome face 
was a look which the secretary had never before 
seen on his employer's face. It was the look of 
a man who asks himself a question over and over 
again. 

On Thursday, in conspicuous type, black 
faced and double-leaded, there appeared on the 
front page and again at the top of the editorial 
column of every daily paper, morning and even- 
ing, in the United States, and in every weekly 
and every monthly paper whose date of publi- 
cation chanced to be Thursday, the following 
paragraph: 

"There is a name which the press of America 
no longer prints. Let every true American, in 
public or in private, cease hereafter from utter- 
ing that name." 

[230] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

Invariably the caption over this paragraph 
was the one word: 

SILENCE! 

One week later, to the day, the wife of one 
of the richest men in America died of acute 
pneumonia at her home in Chicago. Prac- 
tically all the daily papers in America carried 
notices of this lady's death; the wealth of her 
husband and her own prominence in social and 
philanthropic affairs justified this. At greater 
or at less length it was variously set forth that 
she was the niece of a former ambassador to the 
Court of St. James; that she was the national 
head of a great patriotic organization; that she 
was said to have dispensed upward of fifty 
thousand dollars a year in charities; that she 
was born in such and such a year at such and 
such a place; that she left, besides a husband, 
three children and one grandchild; and so forth 
and so on. 

But not a single paper in the United States 
stated that she was the only sister of Congress- 
man Jason Mallard. 

The remainder of this account must neces- 
sarily be in the nature of a description of epi- 
sodes occurring at intervals during a period of 
about six weeks; these episodes, though sepa- 
rated by lapses of time, are nevertheless related. 

Three days after the burial of his sister Con- 
gressman Mallard took part in a debate on a 
[231] 



' THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

matter of war-tax legislation upon the floor of 
the House. As usual he voiced the sentiments 
of a minority of one, his vote being the only 
vote cast in the negative on the passage of the 
measure. His speech was quite brief. To his 
colleagues, listening in dead silence without 
sign of dissent or approval, it seemed exceed- 
ingly brief, seeing that nearly always before 
Mallard, when he spoke at all upon any ques- 
tion, spoke at length. While he spoke the men 
in the press gallery took no notes, and when he 
had finished and was leaving the chamber it 
was noted that the venerable Congressman 
Boulder, a man of nearly eighty, drew himself 
well into his seat, as though he feared Mallard in 
passing along the aisle might brush against him. 

The only publication in America that car- 
ried a transcript of Congressman Mallard's 
remarks on this occasion was the Congres- 
sional Record. 

At the next day's session Congressman Mal- 
lard's seat was vacant; the next day likewise, 
and the next it was vacant. It was rumored 
that he had left Washington, his exact where- 
abouts being unknown. However, no one in 
Washington, so far as was known, in speaking 
of his disappearance, mentioned him by name. 
One man addressing another would merely say 
that he understood a certain person had left town 
or that he understood a certain person was still 
missing from town; the second man in all 
likelihood would merely nod understandingly 
[232] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

and then by tacit agreement the subject would 
be changed. 

Just outside one of the lunch rooms in the 
Union Station at St. Louis late one night in 
the latter part of January an altercation oc- 
curred between two men. One was a tall, dis- 
tinguished-looking man of middle age. The 
other was a railroad employee — a, sweeper and 
cleaner. 

It seemed that the tall man, coming out of 
the lunch room, and carrying a travelling bag 
and a cane, stumbled over the broom which the 
sweeper was using on the floor just beyond the 
doorway. The traveller, who appeared to have 
but poor control over his temper, or rather no 
control at all over it, accused the station hand 
of carelessness and cursed him. The station 
hand made an indignant and impertinent denial. 
At that the other flung down his bag, swung 
aloft his heavy walking stick and struck the 
sweeper across the head with force sufficient 
to lay open the victim's scalp in a two-inch 
gash, which bled freely. 

For once a policeman was on the spot when 
trouble occurred. This particular policeman 
was passing through the train shed and he saw 
the blow delivered. He ran up and, to be on 
the safe side, put both men under technical 
arrest. The sweeper, who had been bowled 
i>ver by the clout he had got, made a charge of 
unprovoked assault against the stranger; the 
latter expressed a blasphemous regret that he 
[233] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

had not succeeded in cracking the sweeper's 
skull. He appeared to be in a highly nervous, 
highly irritable state. At any rate such was the 
interpretation which the patrolman put upon 
his aggressive prisoner's behavior. 

Walking between the pair to prevent further 
hostilities the policeman took both men into 
the station master's oflfice, his intention being 
to telephone from there for a patrol wagon. 
The night station master accompanied them. 
Inside the room, while the station master was 
binding up the wound in the sweeper's forehead 
with a pocket handkerchief, it occurred to the 
policeman that in the flurry of excitement he 
had not found out the name of the tall and still 
excited belligerent. The sweeper he already 
knew. He asked the tall man for his name and 
business. 

*'My name," said the prisoner, **is Jason C. 
Mallard. I am a member of Congress." 

The station master forgot to make the knot 
in the bandage he was tying about the sweeper's 
head. The sweeper forgot the pain of his new 
headache and the blood which trickled down his 
face and fell upon the front of his overalls. As 
though governed by the same set of wires these 
two swung about, and with the officer they 
stared at the stranger. And as they stared, 
recognition came into the eyes of all three, and 
they marvelled that before now none of them 
had discerned the identity of the owner of that 
splendid tousled head of hair and those clean-cut 
[234] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

features, now swollen and red with an unrea- 
sonable choler. The policeman was the first to 
get his shocked and jostled senses back, and 
the first to speak. He proved himself a quick- 
witted person that night, this policeman did; 
and perhaps this helps to explain why his supe- 
rior, the head of the St. Louis police depart- 
ment, on the very next day promoted him to be 
a sergeant. 

But when he spoke it was not to MaUard 
but to the sweeper. 

"Look here, Mel Harris," he said; "you call 
yourself a purty good Amurican, don't you?" 

"You bet your life I do!" was the answer. 
"Ain't I got a boy in camp soldierin'?" 

"Well, I got two there myself," said the 
policeman; "but that ain't the question now. 
I see you've got a kind of a little bruised place 
there on your head. Now then, as a good 
Amurican tryin' to do your duty to your coun- 
try at all times, I want you to tell me how you 
come by that there bruise. Did somebody 
mebbe hit you, or as a matter of fact ain't it 
the truth that you jest slipped on a piece of 
banana peelin' or something of that nature, and 
fell up against the door jamb of that lunch 
room out yonder?" ' 

For a moment the sweeper stared at his 
interrogator, dazed. Then a grin of apprecia- 
tion bisected his homely red-streaked face. 

"Why, it was an accident, oflScer," he an- 
swered. "I slipped down and hit my own self 

[235] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

a wallop, jest like you said. Anyway, it don't 
amount to nothin'.** 

"You seen what happened, didn't you?" 
went on the policeman, addressing the station 
master. "It was a pure accident, wasn't it.'*" 
^^"That's what it was — a pure accident," 
stated the station master. 

"Then, to your knowledge, there wasn't no 
row of any sort occurring round here tonight?" 
went on the policeman. 

"Not that I heard of." 

"Well, if there had a-been you'd a-heard of 
it, wouldn't you?" 
V'Surelwould!" 

"That's good," said the policeman. He 
jabbed a gloved thumb toward the two wit- 
nesses. "Then, see here, Harris! Bein' as it 
was an accident pure and simple and your own 
fault besides, nobody — no outsider — couldn't 
a-had nothin' to do with your gettin' hurt, 
could he?" 

"Not a thing in the world," replied Harris. 

"Not a thing in the world," echoed the sta- 
tion master. 

"And you ain't got any charge to make 
against anybody for what was due to your own 
personal awkwardness, have you?" suggested 
the blue-coated prompter. 

"Certainly I ain't!" disclaimed Harris almost 
indignantly. 

Mallard broke in: "You can't do this — you 
men," he declared hoarsely. "I struck that 
[236] 



I 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

man and I'm glad I did strike him — damn him ! 
I wish I'd killed him. I'm willing to take the 
consequences. I demand that you make a 
report of this case to your superior officer." 

As though he had not heard him — as though 
he did not know a fourth person was present — 
the policeman, looking right past Mallard with 
a levelled, steady, contemptuous gaze, addressed 
the other two. His tone was quite casual, and 
yet somehow he managed to freight his words 
with a scorn too heavy to be expressed in mere 
words : 

"Boys," he said, "it seems-like to me the air 
in this room is so kind of foul that it ain't fitten 
for good Amuricans to be breathin' it. So I'm 
goin' to open up this here door and see if it 
don't purify itself — of its own accord." 

He stepped back and swung the door wide 
open; then stepped over and joined the station 
master and the sweeper. And there together 
they all three stood without a word from any 
one of them as the fourth man, with his face 
deadly white now where before it had been a 
passionate red, and his head lolling on his 
breast, though he strove to hold it rigidly erect, 
passed silently out of the little office. Through 
the opened door the trio with their eyes followed 
him while he crossed the concrete floor of the 
concourse and passed through a gate. They 
continued to watch until he had disappeared in 
the murk, going toward where a row of parked 
sleepers stood at the far end of the train shed. 
' [2371 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Yet another policeman is to figure in this 
recital of events. This policeman's name is 
Caleb Waggoner and this Caleb Waggoner was 
and still is the night marshal in a small town 
in Iowa on the Missouri River. He is one-half 
the police force of the town, the other half 
being a constable who does duty in the day- 
time. Waggoner suffers from an affection 
which in a large community might prevent 
him from holding such a job as the one he does 
hold. He has an impediment of the speech 
which at all times causes him to stammer badly. 
When he is excited it is only by a tremendous 
mental and physical effort and after repeated 
endeavors that he can form the words at all. 
In other regards he is a first-rate ofl5cer, sober, 
trustworthy and kindly. 

On the night of the eighteenth of February 
at about half-past eleven o'clock, Marshal 
Waggoner was completing his regular before- 
midnight round of the business district. The 
weather was nasty, with a raw wet wind blow- 
ing and half-melted slush underfoot. In his 
tour he had encountered not a single person. 
That dead dumb quiet which falls upon a sleepn 
ing town on a winter's night was all about him. 
the principal thoroughfare, into Sycamore 
But as he turned out of Main Street, which is 
Street, a short byway running down between 
scattered buildings and vacant lots to the river 
bank a short block away, he saw a man stand- 
ing at the side door of the Eagle House, the 
[238] 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

I 

town's second-best hotel. A gas lamp flaring 
raggedly above the doorway brought out the 
figure with distinctness. The man was not 
moving — he was just standing there, with the 
collar of a heavy overcoat turned up about his 
throat and a soft black hat with a wide brim 
drawn well down upon his head. 

Drawing nearer, Waggoner, who byname or by 
sight knew every resident of the town, made up 
his mind that the loiterer was a stranger. Now 
a stranger abroad at such an hour and appar- 
ently with no business to mind would at once 
be mentally catalogued by the vigilant night 
marshal as a suspicious person. So when he had 
come close up to the other, padding noiselessly. 
in his heavy rubber boots, the officer halted and 
from a distance of six feet or so stared stead- 
fastly at the suspect. The suspect returned 
the look. 

What Waggoner saw was a thin, haggard face 
covered to the upper bulge of the jaw-bones with 
a disfiguring growth of reddish whiskers and 
inclosed at the temples by shaggy, unkempt 
strands of red hair which protruded from be- 
neath the black hat. Evidently the man had 
not been shaved for weeks; certainly his hair 
needed trimming and combing. But what at 
the moment impressed Waggoner more even 
than the general unkemptness of the stranger's 
aspect was the look out of his eyes. They were 
widespread eyes and bloodshot as though from 
lack of sleep, and they glared into Waggoner's 
[239] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM ' 

with a peculiar, strained, hearkening expres- 
sion. There was agony in them — misery unut- 
terable. 

Thrusting his head forward then, the stranger 
cried out, and his voice, which in his first words 
was deep and musical, suddenly, before he had 
uttered a full sentence, turned to a sharp, half- 
hysterical falsetto: 

"Why don't you say something to me, man?'* 
he cried at the startled Waggoner. "For God's 
sake, why don't you speak to me? Even if you 
do know me, why don't you speak? Why 
don't you call me by my name? I can't stand 
it — I can't stand it any longer, I tell you. 
You've got to speak." 

Astounded, Waggoner strove to answer. But, 
because he was startled and a bit apprehensive 
as well, his throat locked down on his faulty 
vocal cords. His face moved and his lips 
twisted convulsively, but no sound issued from 
his mouth. 

The stranger, glaring into Waggoner's face 
with those two goggling eyes of his, which were 
all eyeballs, threw up both arms at full length 
and gave a great gagging outcry. 

"It's come!" he shrieked; *Mt's come! The 
silence has done it at last. It deafens me — I'm 
deaf! I can't hear you! I can't hear you !" 

He turned and ran south — toward the river — 

and Waggoner, recovering himself, ran after 

him full bent. It was a strangely silent race 

these two ran through the empty little street, 

124<>1 



THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE 

for in the half-melted snow their feet made no 
sounds at all. Waggoner, for obvious reasons, 
could utter no words; the other man did not. 

A scant ten feet in the lead the fugitive 
reached the high clay bank of the river. With- 
out a backward glance at his pursuer, without 
checking his speed, he went off and over the 
edge and down out of sight into the darkness. 
Even at the end of the twenty-foot plunge the 
body in striking made almost no sound at all, 
for, as Waggoner afterward figured, it must 
have struck against a mass of shore ice, then 
instantly to slide off, with scarcely a splash, 
into the roiled yellow waters beyond. 

The policeman checked his own speed barely 
in time to save himself from following over the 
brink. He crouched on the verge of the frozen 
clay bluff, peering downward into the blackness 
and the quiet. He saw nothing and he heard 
nothing except his own labored breathing. 

The body was never recovered. But at 
daylight a black soft hat was found on a half- 
rotted ice floe, where it had lodged close up 
against the bank. A name was stamped in the 
sweatband, and by this the identity of the 
suicide was established as that of Congressman 
Jason Mallard. 



[2411 



vni 

FISHHEAD 



IT goes paet the powers of my pen to try to 
describe Reelfoot Lake for you so that 
you, reading this, will get the picture of 
it in your mind as I have it in mine. 
For Reelfoot Lake is like no other lake that 
I know anything about. It is an afterthought 
of Creation. 

The rest of this continent was made and 
had dried in the sun for thousands of years 
— for millions of years for all I know — 
before Reelfoot came to be. It's the newest 
big thing in nature on this hemisphere probably, 
for it was formed by the great earthquake 
of 1811, just a little more than a hundred 
years ago. That earthquake of 1811 surely 
altered the face of the earth on the then far 
frontier of this country. It changed the 
course of rivers, it converted hills into what 
are now the sunk lands of three states, and it 
turned the solid ground to jelly and made it 

roll in waves like the sea. And in the midst 
__ 



FISHHEAD 



of the retching of the land and the vomiting 
of the waters it depressed to varying depths 
a section of the earth crust sixty miles long, 
taking it down — trees, hills, hollows and all; 
and a crack broke through to the Mississippi 
River so that for three days the river ran up 
stream, filling the hole. 

The result was the largest lake south of the 
Ohio, lying mostly in Tennessee, but extending 
up across what is now the Kentucky line, and 
taking its name from a fancied resemblance 
in its outline to the splay, reeled foot of a 
cornfield negro. Niggerwool Swamp, not so 
far away, may have got its name from the same 
man who christened Reelfoot; at least so it 
sounds. 

Reelfoot is, and has always been, a lake of 
mystery. In places it is bottomless. Other 
places the skeletons of the cypress trees that 
went down when the earth sank still stand 
upright, so that if the sun shines from the 
right quarter and the water is less muddy 
than common, a man peering face downward 
into its depths sees, or thinks he sees, down 
below him the bare top-limbs upstretching 
like drowned men's fingers, all coated with 
the mud of years and bandaged with pennons 
of the green lake slime. In still other places 
the lake is shallow for long stretches, no deeper 
than breast deep to a man, but dangerous 
because of the weed growths and the sunken 
drifts which entangle a s wimmer's limbs. Its 
" [243] "" 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

banks are mainly mud, its waters are muddied 
too, being a rich coffee color in the spring and 
a copperish yellow in the summer, and the 
trees along its shore are mud colored clear up to 
their lower limbs after the spring floods, when 
the dried sediment covers their trunks with a 
thick, scrofulous-looking coat. 

There are stretches of unbroken woodland 
around it and slashes where the cypress knees 
rise countlessly like headstones and footstones 
for the dead snags that rot in the soft ooze. 
There are deadenings with the lowland corn 
growing high and rank below and the bleached, 
fire-blackened girdled trees rising above, barren 
of leaf and limb. There are long, dismal flats 
where in the spring the clotted frog-spawn 
clings like patches of white mucus among the 
weed stalks and at night the turtles crawl 
out to lay clutches of perfectly round, white 
eggs with tough, rubbery shells in the sand. 
There are bayous leading off to nowhere 
and sloughs that wind aimlessly, like great, 
blind worms, to finally join the big river that 
rolls its semi-liquid torrents a few miles to the 
westward. 

So Reelfoot lies there, flat in the bottoms, 

freezing lightly in the winter, steaming torridly 

in the summer, swollen in the spring when the 

woods have turned a vivid green and the 

buffalo gnats by the million and the billion 

fill the flooded hollows with their pestilential 

buzzing, and in the fall ringed about gloriously 
— - 



FISHHEAD 



with all the colors which the first frost brings 
— gold of hickory, yellow-russet of sycamore, 
red of dogwood and ash and purple-black of 
sweet-gum. 

But the Reelfoot country has its uses. It 
is the best game and fish country, natural or 
artificial, that is left in the South today. In 
their appointed seasons the duck and the 
geese flock in, and even semi-tropical birds, 
like the brown pelican and the Florida snake- 
bird, have been known to come there to nest. 
Pigs, gone back to wildness, range the ridges, 
each razor-backed drove captained by a gaunt, 
savage, slab-sided old boar. By night the 
bull frogs, inconceivably big and tremendously 
vocal, bellow under the banks. 

It is a wonderful place for fish — bass and 
crappie and perch and the snouted buffalo 
fish. How these edible sorts five to spawn 
and how their spawn in turn live to spawn 
again is a marvel, seeing how many of the 
big fish-eating cannibal fish there are in Reel- 
foot. Here, bigger than anywhere else, you 
find the garfish, all bones and appetite and 
horny plates, with a snout like an alligator, 
the nearest link, naturalists say, between the 
animal life of today and the animal life of the 
Reptilian Period. The shovel-nose cat, really 
a deformed kind of freshwater sturgeon, with 
a great fan-shaped membranous plate jutting 
out from his nose like a bowsprit, jumps all 
day in the quiet places with mighty splashing 
[245] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

sounds, as though a horse had fallen into the 
water. On every stranded log the huge snap- 
ping turtles lie on sminy days in groups of 
four and six, baking their shells black in the 
sun, with their little snaky heads raised watch- 
fully, ready to sHp noiselessly off at the first 
sound of oars grating in the row-locks. 

But the biggest of them all are the catfish. 
These are monstrous creatures, these catfish of 
Reelfoot — scaleless, slick things, with corpsy, 
dead eyes and poisonous fins like javelins and 
long whiskers dangling from the sides of their 
cavernous heads. Six and seven feet long they 
grow to be and to weigh two hundred pounds 
or more, and they have mouths wide enough to 
take in a man's foot or a man's fist and strong 
enough to break any hook save the strongest 
and greedy enough to eat anything, living or 
dead or putrid, that the homy jaws can master. 
Oh, but they are wicked things, and they tell 
wicked tales of them down there. They call 
them man-eaters and compare them, in certain 
of their habits, to sharks. 

Fishhead was of a piece with this setting. 
He fitted into it as an acorn fits its cup. All 
his life he had lived on Reelfoot, always in 
the one place, at the mouth of a certain slough. 
He had been bom there, of a negro father and 
a half-breed Indian mother, both of them now 
dead, and the story was that before his birth 
his mother was frightened by one of the big 
fish, so that the child came into the world 
■ [246] 



FISHHEAD 



most hideously marked. Anyhow, Fishhead 
was a human monstrosity, the veritable em- 
bodiment of nightmare. He had the body of 
a man — a short, stocky, sinewy body — but 
his face was as near to being the face of a 
great fish as any face could be and yet retain 
some trace of human aspect. His skull sloped 
back so abruptly that he could hardly be said 
to have a forehead at all; his chin slanted off 
right into nothing. His eyes were small and 
round with shallow, glazed, pale-yellow pupils, 
and they were set wide apart in his head and 
they were unwinking and staring, like a fish's 
eyes. His nose was no more than a pair of 
tiny slits in the middle of the yellow mask. 
His mouth was the worst of all. It was the 
awful mouth of a catfish, lipless and almost 
inconceivably wide, stretching from side to 
side. Also when Fishhead became a man 
grown his likeness to a fish increased, for the 
hair upon his face grew out into two tightly 
kinked, slender pendants that drooped down 
either side of the mouth like the beards of a 
fish. 

If he had any other name than Fishhead, 
none excepting he knew it. As Fishhead he 
was known and as Fishhead he answered. 
Because he knew the waters and the woods of 
ReeKoot better than any other man there, 
he was valued as a guide by the city men who 
came every year to hunt or fish; but there 
were few suc h jobs that Fishhead would take. 
[247] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Mainly he kept to himself, tending his corn 
patch, netting the lake, trapping a little and 
in season pot hunting for the city markets. 
His neighbors, ague-bitten whites and malaria- 
proof negroes alike, left him to himself. Indeed 
for the most part they had a superstitious fear 
of him. So he lived alone, with no kith nor 
kin, nor even a friend, shunning his kind and 
shunned by them. 

His cabin stood just below the state line, 
where Mud Slough runs into the lake. It 
was a shack of logs, the only human habitation 
for four miles up or down. Behind it the 
thick timber came shouldering right up to the 
edge of Fishhead's small truck patch, enclosing 
it in thick shade except when the sun stood 
just overhead. He cooked his food in a primi- 
tive fashion, outdoors, over a hole in the soggy 
earth or upon the rusted red ruin of an old 
cook stove, and he drank the saffron water 
of the lake out of a dipper made of a gourd, 
faring and fending for himself, a master hand 
at skiff and net, competent with duck gun 
and fish spear, yet a creature of afl3iction and 
loneliness, part savage, almost amphibious, set 
apart from his fellows, silent and suspicious. 

In front of his cabin jutted out a long fallen 
Cottonwood trunk, lying half in and half out 
of the water, its top side burnt by the sun 
and worn by the friction of Fishhead's bare 
feet until it showed countless patterns of tiny 
scrolled lines, its under side black and rotted 

[248] 



FISHHEAD 



and lapped at unceasingly by little waves like 
tiny licking tongues. Its farther end reached 
deep water. And it was a part of Fishhead, 
for no matter how far his fishing and trapping 
might take him in the daytime, sunset would 
find him back there, his boat drawn up on the 
bank and he on the outer end of this log. 
From a distance men had seen him there many 
times, sometimes squatted, motionless as the 
big turtles that would crawl upon its dipping 
tip in his absence, sometimes erect and vigi- 
lant like a creek crane, his misshapen yellow 
form outlined against the yellow sun, the 
yellow water, the yellow banks — all of them 
yellow together. 

If the Reelfooters shunned Fishhead by 
day they feared him by night and avoided him 
as a plague, dreading even the chance of a 
casual meeting. For there were ugly stories 
about Fishhead — stories which all the negroes 
and some of the whites believed. They said 
that a cry which had been heard just before 
dusk and just after, skittering across the 
darkened waters, was his calling cry to the big 
cats, and at his bidding they came trooping in, 
and that in their company he swam in the lake 
on moonlight nights, sporting with them, diving 
with them, even feeding with them on what 
manner of unclean things they fed. The cry 
had been heard many times, that much was 
certain, and it was certain also that the big 
fish were noticeably thick at the mouth of 
" [249] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

Fishhead's slough. No native Reelfooter, white 
or black, would willingly wet a leg or an arm 
there. 

Here Fishhead had lived and here he was 
going to die. The Baxters were going to kill 
him, and this day in mid-summer was to be the 
time of the killing. The two Baxters — Jake 
and Joel — were coming in their dugout to do 
it. This murder had been a long time in the 
making. The Baxters had to brew their hate 
over a slow fire for months before it reached the 
pitch of action. They were poor whites, poor 
in everything — repute and worldly goods and 
standing — a pair of fever-ridden squatters who 
lived on whisky and tobacco when they could 
get it, and on fish and cornbread when they 
couldn't. 

The feud itself was of months' standing. 
Meeting Fishhead one day in the spring on 
the spindly scaffolding of the skiff landing at 
Walnut Log, and being themselves far over- 
taken in liquor and vainglorious with a bogus 
alcoholic substitute for courage, the brothers 
had accused him, wantonly and without proof, 
of running their trot-line and stripping it of 
the hooked catch — an unforgivable sin among 
the water dwellers and the shanty boaters of the 
South. Seeing that he bore this accusation 
in silence, only eyeing them steadfastly, they 
had been emboldened then to slap his face, 
whereup>on he turned and gave them both the 
beating of their lives — bloodying their noses 
[250] 



I 



FISHHEAD 



and bruising their lips with hard blows against 
their front teeth, and finally leaving them, 
mauled and prone, in the dirt. Moreover, in 
the onlookers a sense of the everlasting fitness 
of things had triumphed over race prejudice 
and allowed them — two freeborn, sovereign 
whites — to be licked by a nigger. 

Therefore, they were going to get the nigger. 
The whole thing had been planned out amply. 
They were going to kill him on his log at sun- 
down. There would be no witnesses to see it, 
no retribution to follow after it. The very 
ease of the undertaking made them forget 
even their inborn fear of the place of Fishhead's 
habitation. 

For more than an hour now they had been 
coming from their shack across a deeply 
indented arm of the lake. Their dugout, 
fashioned by fire and adz and draw-knife from 
the bole of a gum tree, moved through the 
water as noiselessly as a swimming mallard, 
leaving behind it a long, wavy trail on the 
stilled waters. Jake, the better oarsman sat 
flat in the stern of the round-bottomed craft, 
paddling with quick, splashless strokes. Joel, 
the better shot, was squatted forward. There 
was a heavy, rusted duck gun between his 
knees. 

Though their spying upon the victim had 
made them certain sure he would not be about 
the shore for hours, a doubled sense of caution 
led them to hug closely the weedy banks. 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

They slid along the shore like shadows, moving 
so swiftly and in such silence that the watch- 
ful mud turtles barely turned their snaky 
heads as they passed. So, a full hour before 
the time, they came slipping around the 
mouth of the slough and made for a natural 
ambuscade which the mixed breed had left 
within a stone's jerk of his cabin to his own 
undoing. 

Where the slough's flow joined deeper water 
a partly uprooted tree was stretched, prone 
from shore, at the top still thick and green 
with leaves that drew nourishment from the 
earth in which the half-uncovered roots yet 
held, and twined about with an exuberance of 
trumpet vines and wild fox-grapes. All about 
was a huddle of drift — last year's cornstalks, 
shreddy strips of bark, chunks of rotted weed, 
all the riffle and dunnage of a quiet eddy. 
Straight into this green clump glided the dug- 
out and swung, broadside on, against the 
protecting trunk of the tree, hidden from the 
inner side by the intervening curtains of rank 
growth, just as the Baxters had intended it 
should be hidden, when days before in their 
scouting they marked this masked place of 
waiting and included it, then and there, in the 
scope of their plans. 

There had been no hitch or mishap. No one 
had been abroad in the late afternoon to mark 
their movements — and in a little while Fish- 
head ought to be due. Jake's woodman's 

[252] 



FISHHEAD 



eye followed the downward swing of the sun 
speculatively. The shadows, thrown shore- 
ward, lengthened and slithered on the small 
ripples. The small noises of the day died out; 
the small noises of the coming night began to 
multiply. The green-bodied flies went away 
and big mosquitoes, with speckled gray legs, 
came to take the places of the flies. The 
sleepy lake sucked at the mud banks with 
small mouthing sounds as though it found the 
taste of the raw mud agreeable. A monster 
crawfish, big as a chicken lobster, crawled out 
of the top of his dried mud chimney and 
perched himself there, an armored sentinel 
on the watchtower. Bull bats began to flitter 
back and forth above the tops of the trees. A 
pudgy muskrat, swimming with head up, was 
moved to sidle off briskly as he met a cotton- 
mouth moccasin snake, so fat and swollen with 
summer poison that it looked almost like a leg- 
less lizard as it moved along the surface of the 
water in a series of slow torpid s's. Directly 
above the head of either of the waiting assas- 
sins a compact little swarm of midges himg, 
holding to a sort of kite-shaped formation. 

A little more time passed and Fishhead came 
out of the woods at the back, walking swiftly, 
with a sack over his shoulder. For a few 
seconds his deformities showed in the clearing, 
then the black inside of the cabin swallowed 
him up. By now the sun was almost down. 
Only the red nub of it showed above the 

1253] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

timber line across the lake, and the shadows 
lay inland a long way. Out beyond, the big 
cats were stirring, and the great smacking 
sounds as their twisting bodies leaped clear 
and fell back in the water came shoreward in 
a chorus. 

But the two brothers in their green covert 
gave heed to nothing except the one thing 
upon which their hearts were set and their 
nerves tensed. Joel gently shoved his gun- 
barrels across the log, cuddling the stock to 
his shoulder and slipping two fingers caress- 
ingly back and forth upon the triggers. Jake 
held the narrow dugout steady by a grip upon 
a fox-grape tendril. 

A Httle wait and then the finish came. 
Fishhead emerged from the cabin door and 
came down the narrow footpath to the water 
and out upon the water on his log. He was 
barefooted and bareheaded, his cotton shirt 
open down the front to show his yellow neck 
and breast, his dungaree trousers held about 
his waist by a twisted tow string. His broad 
splay feet, with the prehensile toes outspread, 
gripped the polished curve of the log as he 
moved along its swaying, dipping surface until 
he came to its outer end and stood there 
erect, his chest filling, his chinless face lifted 
up and something of mastership and dominion 
in his poise. And then — his eye caught what 
another's eyes might have missed — the round, 
twin ends of the gun barrels, the fixed gleams 
[254] 



FISHHEAD 



of Joel's eyes, aimed at him through the green 
tracery. 

In that swift passage of time, too swift almost 
to be measured by seconds, realization flashed 
all through him, and he threw his head still 
higher and opened wide his shapeless trap of a 
mouth, and out across the lake he sent skitter- 
ing and rolling his cry. And in his cry was 
the laugh of a loon, and the croaking bellow 
of a frog, and the bay of a hound, all the com- 
pounded night noises of the lake. And in 
it, too, was a farewell and a defiance and an 
appeal. The heavy roar of the duck gun came. 

At twenty yards the double charge tore the 
throat out of him. He came down, face for- 
ward, upon the log and clung there, his trunk 
twisting distortedly, his legs twitching and 
kicking like the legs of a speared frog, his 
shoulders hunching and lifting spasmodically 
as the life ran out of him all in one swift cours- 
ing flow. His head canted up between the 
heaving shoulders, his eyes looked full on the 
staring face of his murderer, and then the blood 
came out of his mouth and Fishhead, in death 
still as much fish as man, slid flopping, head 
first, off the end of the log and sank, face 
downward, slowly, his limbs all extended out. 
One after another a string of big bubbles came 
up to burst in the middle of a widening reddish 
stain on the coffee-colored water. 

The brothers watched this, held by the horror 
of the thing they had done, and the cranky 
[^55] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

dugout, tipped far over by the recoil of the gun, 
took water steadily across its gunwale; and 
now there was a sudden stroke from below 
upon its careening bottom and it went over 
and they were in the lake. But shore was only 
twenty feet away, the trunk of the uprooted 
tree only five. Joel, still holding fast to his 
hot gun, made for the log, gaining it with 
one stroke. He threw his free arm over it and 
clung there, treading water, as he shook his 
eyes free. Something gripped him — some 
great, sinewy, unseen thing gripped him fast 
by the thigh, crushing down on his flesh. 

He uttered no cry, but his ej'^es popped out 
and his mouth set in a square shape of agony, 
and his fingers gripped into the bark of the tree 
like grapples. He was pulled down and down, 
by steady jerks, not rapidly but steadily, so 
steadily, and as he went his fingernails tore 
four little white strips in the tree bark. His 
mouth went under, next his popping eyes, then 
his erect hair, and finally his clawing, clutching 
hand, and that was the end of him. 

Jake's fate was harder still, for he lived 
longer — long enough to see Joel's finish. He 
saw it through the water that ran down his 
face, and with a great surge of his whole body 
he literally flung himself across the log and 
jerked his legs up high into the air to save them. 
He flung himself too far, though, for his face 
and chest hit the water on the far side. And 
out of this water rose the head of a great fish, 
[256] ' 



FISHHEAD 



with the lake slime of years on its flat, black 
head, its whiskers bristling, its corpsy eyes 
alight. Its horny jaws closed and clamped in 
the front of Jake's flannel shirt. His hand 
struck out wildly and was speared on a poisoned 
fin, and unlike Joel, he went from sight with 
a great yell and a whirling and a churning of 
the water that made the cornstalks circle on 
the edges of a small whirlpool. 

But the whirlpool soon thinned away into 
widening rings of ripples and the cornstalks 
quit circling and became still again, and only 
the multiplying night noises sounded about the 
mouth of the slough. 

The bodies of all three came ashore on the 
same day near the same place. Except for 
the gaping gunshot wound where the neck 
met the chest, Fishhead's body was unmarked. 
But the bodies of the two Baxters were so 
marred and mauled that the Reelfooters buried 
them together on the bank without ever know- 
ing which might be Jake's and which might 
be Joel's. 



[257 



IX 

GUILTY AS CHARGED 



THE Jew, I take it, is essentially tem- 
peramental, whereas the Irishman is 
by nature sentimental; so that in the 
long run both of them may reach the 
same results by varying mental routes. This, 
however, has nothing to do with the story 
I am telling here, except inferentially. 

It was trial day at headquarters. To be 
exact, it was the tail end of trial day at head- 
quarters. The mills of the pohce gods, which 
grind not so slowly but ofttimes exceeding 
fine, were about done with their grinding; 
and as the last of the grist came through the 
hopper, the last of the afternoon sunlight 
came sifting in through the windows at the 
west, thin and pale as skim milk. One after 
another the culprits, patrolmen mainly, had 
been arraigned on charges preferred by a su- 
perior officer, who was usually a lieutenant 
or a captain, but once in a while an inspector, 
full-breasted and gold-banded, like _a fat blue 
[2581 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



bumblebee. In due turn each offender had 
made his defense; those who were lying about 
it did their lying, as a rule, glibly and easily 
and with a certain bogus frankness very pleas- 
ing to see. Contrary to a^ general opinion, the 
Father of Lies is often quite good to his chil- 
dren. • But those who were telling the truth 
were frequently shamefaced and mumbling of 
speech, making poor impressions. 

In due turn, also, each man had been con- 
victed or had been acquitted, yet all — the 
proven innocent and the adjudged guilty alike 
— had undergone punishment, since they all 
had to sit and listen to lectures on police dis- 
cipline and police manners from the trial 
deputy. It was perhaps as well for the peace 
and good order of the community that the 
public did not attend these seances. Those 
classes now that are the most thoroughly and 
most personally governed — the pushcart ped- 
lers, with the permanent cringing droops in 
their alien backs; the sinful small boys, who 
play baseball in the streets against the statutes 
made and provided; the broken old wrecks, 
who ambush the prosperous passer-by in the 
shadows of dark corners, begging for money 
with which to keep body and soul together — 
it was just as well perhaps that none of them 
was admitted there to see these large, firm, 
stern men in uniform wriggling on the punish- 
ment chair, fumbling at their buttons, explain- 
ing, whining, even begging for mercy under 



[259] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

the lashing flail of Third Deputy Commissioner 
Donohue's sleety judgments. 

"The only time old Donny warms up is 
when he's got a grudge against you," a wit of 
headquarters — Larry Magee by name — had 
said once as he came forth from the ordeal, 
brushing imaginary hailstones off his shoulders. 
"It's always snowing hard in his soul!" 

Unlike most icy-tempered men, though, Third 
Deputy Commissioner Donohue was addicted 
to speech. Dearly he loved to hear the sound 
of his own voice. Give to Donohue a con- 
genial topic, such as some one's official or 
personal shortcomings, and a congenial audi- 
ence, and he excelled mightily in saw-edged 
oratory, rolling his r's until the tortured con- 
sonants fairly lay on their backs and begged 
for mercy. 

This, however, would have to be said for 
Deputy Commissioner Donohue — he was a 
hard one to fool. HimseK a grayed ex-private 
of the force, who had climbed from the ranks 
step by step through slow and devious stages, 
he was coldly aware of every trick and device 
of the delinquent policeman. A new and par- 
ticularly ingenious subterfuge, one that tasted 
of the fresh paint, might win his begrudged 
admiration — his gray flints of eyes would 
strike off sparks of grim appreciation; but 
then, nearly always, as though to discourage 
originality even in lying, he would plaster on 
the penalty — and the lecture — twice as thick. 

[260 1 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 

Wherefore, because of all these things, the 
newspaper men at headquarters viewed this 
elderly disciplinarian with mixed professional 
emotions. Presiding over a trial day, he 
made abundant copy for them, which was very 
good; but if the case were an important one 
he often prolonged it until they missed getting 
the result into their final editions, which, if 
you know anything about final editions, was 
very, very bad. 

It was so on this particular afternoon. Here 
it was nearly dusk. The windows toward the 
east showed merely as opaque patches set 
against a wall of thickening gloom, and the 
third deputy commissioner had started in at 
two-thirty and was not done yet. Sparse 
and bony, he crouched forward on the edge 
of his chair, with his lean head drawn down 
between his leaner shoulders and his stiff 
stubble of hair erect on his scalp, and he 
looked, perching there, like a broody but 
vigilant old crested cormorant upon a barren 
rock. 

Except for one lone figure of misery, the 
anxious bench below him was by now empty. 
Most of the witnesses were gone and most 
of the spectators, and all the newspaper men 
but two. He whetted a lean and crooked 
forefinger like a talon on the edge of the docket 
book, turned the page and called the last case, 
being the case of Patrolman James J. Rogan. 
Patrolman Rogan was a short horse and soon 

[261] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

curried. For being on such and such a day, 
at such and such an hour, off his post, where 
he belonged, and in a saloon where he did not 
belong, sitting down, with his blouse unfastened 
and his belt unbuckled; and for having no 
better excuse, or no worse one, than the ancient 
tale of a sudden attack of faintness causing 
him to make his way into the nearest place 
where he might recover himself — that it 
happ)ened to be a family liquor store was, he 
protested, a sheer accident — Patrolman Rogan 
was required to pay five days' pay and, ,more- 
over, to listen to divers remarks in which he 
heard himself likened to several things, none 
of them of a complimentary character. 

Properly crushed and shrunken, the culprit 
departed thence with his uniform bagged and 
wrinkling upon his diminished form, and the 
third deputy commissioner, well pleased, on 
the whole, with his day's hunting, prepared to 
adjourn. The two lone reporters got up and 
made for the door, intending to telephone in 
to their two shops the grand total and final 
summary of old Donohue's bag of game. 

They were at the door, in a little press of 
departing witnesses and late defendants, when 
behind them a word in Donohue's hard-rolled 
official accents made them halt and turn round. 
The veteran had picked up from his desk a 
sheet of paper and was squinting up his hedgy, 
thick eyebrows in an effort to read what was 
written there. 
'■ [262] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



"Wan more case to be heard," he announced. 
"Keep order there, you men at the door! 
The case of Lieutenant Isidore Weil " — he 
grated the name out lingeringly — "charged 

with — with " He broke off, peering 

about him for some one to scold. "Couldn't 
you be makin' a light here, some of you! I 
can't see to make out these here charges and 
specifications.'* 

Some one bestirred himself and many lights 
popped on, chasing the shadows back into the 
far corners. Outside in the hall a policeman 
doing duty as a bailiff called the name of 
Lieutenant Isidore Weil, thrice repeated. 

"Gee! Have they landed that slick kike at 
last.f^" said La Farge, the older of the report- 
ers, half to himself. "Say, you know, that 
tickles me! I've been looking this long time 
for something like this to be coming off." Like 
most old headquarters reporters. La Farge 
had his deep-seated prejudices. To judge 
by his present expression, this was a very 
deep-seated one, amounting, you might say, 
to a constitutional infirmity with La 
Farge. 

"Who's Weil and what's he done.'*" inquired 
Rogers. Rogers was a young reporter. 

"I don't know yet — the charge must be 
newly filed, I guess," said La Farge, answering 
the last question first. "But I hope they 
nail him! I don't like him — never did. 
He's too fresh. He's too smart — one of those 

[263] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

self-educated East Side Yiddishers, you know. 
Used to be a court interpreter down at Essex 
Market — knows about steen languages. And 
he — here he comes now." 

Weil passed them, going into the trial room 
— a short, squarely built man with oily black 
hair above a dark, round face. Instantly you 
knew him for one of the effusive Semitic type; 
every angle and turn of his outward aspect 
testified frankly of his breed and his sort. 
And at sight of him entering you could 
almost see the gorge of Deputy Commis- 
sioner Donohue's race antagonism rising in- 
side of him. His gray hackles stiffened and 
his thick-set eyebrows bristled outward like 
bits of frosted privet. Again he began whet- 
ting his forefinger on the leather back of the 
closed docket book. It was generally a bad 
sign for somebody when Donohue whetted his 
forefinger like that, and La Farge would have 
delighted to note it. But La Farge's apprais- 
ing eyes were upon the accused. 

"Listen!" he said under his breath to Rogers. 
"I think they must have the goods on Mister 
Wiseheimer at last. Usually he's the cockiest 
person round this building. Now take a look 
at him." 

Indeed, there was a visible air of self-abase- 
ment about Lieutenant Weil as he crossed the 
wide chamber. It was a thing hard to define 
in words; yet undeniably there was a diffidence 
and a reluctance manifest in him, as though 
[264] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



a sense of guilt wrestled with the man's natural 
conceit and assurance. 

"Rogers," said La Farge, "let's hustle out 
and 'phone in what we've got and then come 
back right away. If this fellow's going to get 
the harpoon stuck into him I want to be on 
hand when he starts bleeding." 

Only a few of the dwindled crowd turned 
back to hear the beginning of the case, what- 
ever it might be, against the Jew. The rest 
scattered through the corridors, heading mainly 
for the exits, so that the two newspaper men 
had company as they hurried toward the main 
door, making for their offices across the street. 
When they came back the long cross halls were 
almost deserted; it had taken them a little 
longer to finish the job of telephoning than 
they had figured. At the door of the trial 
room stood one bulky blue figure. It was the 
acting bailiff. 

"How far along have they got?" asked 
La Farge as the policeman made way for them 
to pass in. 

"Captain Meagher is the first witness,'* 
said the policeman. "He's the one that's 
makin' the charge," 

"What is the charge.^^" put in Rogers. 

"At this distance I couldn't make out — 
Cap Meagher, he mumbles so," confessed the 
doorkeeper. "Somethin' about misuse of poKce 
property, I take it to be." 

"Aha!" gloated La Farge in his gratifica- 

[265 1 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

tion. " Come on, Rogers — I don't want to 
miss any of this." 

It was plain, however, that they had missed 
something; for, to judge by his attitude. Cap- 
tain Meagher was quite through with his tes- 
timony. He still sat in the witness chair 
alongside the deputy commissioner's desk; 
but he was silent and he stared vacantly at 
vacancy. Captain Meagher was known in the 
department as a man incredibly honest and 
unbelievably dull. He had no more imagina- 
tion than one of his own reports. He had a 
long, sad face, like a tired workhorse's, and 
heavy black eyebrows that curved high in the 
middle and arched downward at each end — 
circumflexes accenting the incurable stupidity 
of his expression. His black mustache drooped 
the same way, too, in the design of an inverted 
magnet. Larry Magee had coined one of his 
best whimsies on the subject of the shape of 
the captain's mustache. 

"No wonder," he said, "old Meagher never 
has any luck — he wears his horseshoe upside 
down on his face!" 

Just as the two reporters, re-entering, took 
their seats the trial deputy spoke. 

"Is that all. Captain Meagher?" he asked 
sonorously. 

"That's all," said Meagher. 

"I note," went on Donohue, glancing about 
him, "that the accused does not appear to be 
ripresented by counsel." 

[266] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



A man on trial at headquarters has the right 
to hire a lawyer to defend him. 

"No, sir,'* spoke up Weil briskly. "I've 
got no lawyer, commissioner." His speech 
was the elaborated and painfully emphasized 
English of the self-taught East Sider. It 
carried in it just the bare suggestion of the 
racial hsp, and it made an acute contrast to 
the menacing Hibernian purr of Donohue's 
heavier voice. "I kind of thought I'd conduct 
my own case myseK." 

Donohue merely grunted. 

"Do you desire, Lieutenant Weil, for to ask 
Captain Meagher any questions .f^" he demanded. 

Weil shook his oily head of hair. 

"No, sir. I wouldn't wish to ask the captain 
anything." 

"Are there any other witnesses?" inquired 
Donohue next. 

There was no answer. Plainly there were no 
other witnesses. 

"Lieutenant Weil, do you desire for to say 
something in your own behalf?" queried the 
deputy commissioner. 

"I think I'd hke to," answered Weil. 

He stood to be sworn, took the chair Meagher 
vacated and sat facing the room, appearing — 
so La Farge thought — more shamefaced and 
abashed than ever. 

"Now, then," commanded Donohue im- 
pressively, "what statement, if any, have 
you to make, Lieutenant Weil, touchin' on 

[ 267 ] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

this here charge preferred by your superior 
officer?" 

Weil cleared his throat. Rogers figured that 
this bespoke embarrassment; but, to the biased 
understanding of the hostile La Farge, there 
was something falsely theatrical even in the 
way Weil cleared his throat. 

"Once a grandstander always a grand- 
stander!" he muttered derisively. 

"What did you say?" whispered Rogers. 

"Nothing," replied La Farge — "just think- 
ing out loud. Listen to what Foxy Issy has 
to say for himself." 

"Well, sir, commissioner," began the accused, 
*'this here thing happens last Thursday, just 
as Captain Meagher is telling you." He had 
slipped already into the jX)Uceman's trick of 
detailing a past event in the present tense. 

"It's late in the afternoon — round five 
o'clock I guess — and I'm downstairs in the 
Detective Bureau alone." 

"Alone, you say?" broke in Donohue, em- 
phasizing the word as though the admission 
scored a point against the man on trial. 

"Yes, sir, I'm alone. It happens that 
everybody else is out and I'm in temporary 
charge, as you might say. It's getting along 
toward dark when Patrolman Morgan, who's 
on duty out in the hall, comes in and says 
to me there's a woman outside who can't talk 
English and he can't make out what she wants. 
So I tells hi m to bring her in. She comes in. 

[268] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



Right away I see she's a Ginney — an ItaHan," 
he corrected himself hurriedly. "She's got a 
child with her — a little boy about two years 
old." 

"Describe this here woman!" ordered Dono- 
hue, who loved to drag in details at a trial, 
not so much for the sake of the details them- 
selves as to show his skill as a cross-examiner. 

"Well, sir," complied Weil, "I should say 
she's about twenty-five years old. It's hard 
to tell about those Italian women, but I should 
say she's about twenty-five — or maybe twenty- 
six. She's got no figure at all and she's dressed 
poor. But she's got a pretty face — big 
brown eyes and " 

"That will do," interrupted the deputy 
commissioner — "that will do for that. I 
take it you're not qualifyin' here for a beauty 
expert. Lieutenant Weil!" he added with elab- 
orate sarcasm. 

"You asked me about her looks, sir," parried 
Weil defensively, "and I'm just trying to tell 

you." 

"Proceed! Proceed!" bade Donohue, rum- 
bling his consonants. 

"Yes, sir. Well, in regard to this woman: 
She's talking so fast I can't figure out at first 
what she's trying to tell me. It's Italian she's 
talking — or I should say the kind of Italian 
they talk in parts of Sicily. After a little I 
begin to see what she's driving at. It seems 
she's the wife of one Antonio Terranova and 



[269 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

her name is Maria Terranova. And after I get 
her straightened out and going slow she tells 
me her story." 

"Is this here story got a bearin* on the 
charges pendin'?" 

"I think it has. Yes, sir; it helps to explain 
what happens. As near as I can make out 
she comes from some small town down round 
Messina somewhere, and the way she tells 
it to me, her husband leaves there not long 
after they're married and comes over here to 
New York to get work, and when he gets enough 
money saved up ahead he's going to send back 
for her. That's near about three years ago. 
So she stays behind waiting for him, and in 
about four months after he leaves the baby 
is born — the same baby that she brings in 
here to headquarters with her last Thursday. 
She says neither one of them thinks it'll be 
long before he can save up money for her 
passage, but it seems like he has the bad luck. 
He's sick for a while after he lands, and then 
when he gets a job in a construction gang the 
padrone takes the most of what he makes. 
And just about the time he gets a little saved 
, up some other Ginney — Italian — in the con- 
struction camp steals it ofiP of him. 

"So he's up against it, and after a while he 
gets desperate. So he joins in with a Black 
Hander gang — amateurs operating up in the 
Bronx — and the very first trick he helps turn 
he does well by it. His share is near about a 
[270 J 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



hundred dollars, and he sends her the best 
part of it to bring her and the baby over. She 
don't know at the time, though, how he raises 
all this money — so she tells me. And I think, 
at that, she's telling the truth — she ain't got 
sense enough to lie, I think. Anyway it 
sounds truthful to me — the way she tells it 
to me here last Thursday night." 

"Proceed!" prompted Donohue testily. 

*'So she takes this here money and buys 
herself a steerage ticket and comes over here 
with the baby. That, as near as I can figure 
out, is about three months ago. She's not 
seen this husband of hers for going on three 
years — of course the baby's never seen him. 
And she figures he'll be at the dock to meet 
her. But he's not there. But his cousin is 
there — another Italian from the same town. 
He gets her through Ellis Island somehow 
and he takes her up to where he's living — up 
in the Bronx — and tells her the reason her 
husband ain't there to meet her. The reason 
is, he's at Sing Sing, doing four years. 

" It seems that after he's sent her this passage 
money the husband gets to thinking Black 
Handing is a pretty soft way to make a living, 
especially compared to day laboring, and he 
tries to raise a stake single-handed. He writes 
a Black Hand letter to an Italian grocer he 
knows has got money laid by, only the grocer 
is foxy and goes to the Tremont Avenue Station 
and shows the letter. They rig up a plant and 
[2711 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

this here Antonio Terranova walks into it. 
He's caught with the marked bills on him. 
So just the week before she lands he takes a 
plea in General Sessions and the judge gives 
him four years. When she gets to where she's 
telling me that part of it she starts crying. 

"Well, anyway, that's the situation — him 
up there at Sing Sing doing his four years and 
her down here in New York with the kid on 
her hands. And she don't ever see him again, 
either, because in about three or four weeks 
— something like that — he's working with a 
gang in the rock quarry across the river, where 
they're building the new cell house, and a chunk 
of slate falls down and kills him and two 
others." 

"Right here and now," interrupted the third 
deputy commissioner, "I want to know what's 
all this here stuff got to do with these here 
charges and specifications?" 

"Just a minute, please. I'm coming to 
that right away, commissioner," protested the 
accused lieutenant with a sort of glib nervous 
agility; yet for all of his promising, he paused 
for a little bit before he continued. And this 
pause, brief enough as it was, gave the Hsten- 
ing La Farge time to discover, with a small 
inward jar of surprise, that somehow, some 
way, he was beginning to lose some of his 
acrid antagonism for Weil; that, by mental 
processes which as yet he could not exactly 
resolve into their proper constituents, it was 

[272] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



beginning to dribble away from him. And 
realization came to him, almost with a shock, 
that the man on the stand was telling the truth. 
Truth or not, though, the narrative thus far 
had been commonplace enough — people at 
headquarters hear the like of it often; and as 
a seasoned police reporter La Farge's emotions 
by now should be coated over with a calloused 
shell inches deep and hard as horn. Trying 
with half his mind to figure out what it was 
that had quickened these emotions, he Hstened 
all the harder as Weil went on. 

"So this here big chunk of rock or slate 
or whatever it was falls on him and the two 
others and kills them. Not knowing where 
to send the body, they bury it up there at 
Sing Sing, and she never sees him again, 
living or dead. But here just a few days ago 
it seems she picks up, from overhearing some 
of the other Italians talking, that we've got 
such a thing as a Rogues' Gallery down here 
at headquarters and that her husband's pic- 
ture is liable to be in it. So that's why she's 
here. She's found her way here somehow and 
she asks me won't I" — he caught himself — 
"won't the police please give her her husband's 
picture out of the gallery." 

"And for why did she want that?" rumbled 
Donohue. 

"That's what I asks her myself. It seems 
she's got no shame about it at all. She tells 
me she wants to hang on to it until she can 

[273] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

get the money to have it enlarged into a big 
picture, and then she's going to keep it — till 
the bambino — that's ItaUan for baby, com- 
missioner, you know — till the baby grows 
up, so he can see what his dead father looked 
like." 

Now of a sudden La Farge knew — or 
thought he knew — why his interest had 
stirred in him a minute before. Instinctively 
his reporter's sixth sense had scented a good 
news story before the real point of the story 
had come out, even. A curious little silence 
had fallen on the haK-lighted, almost empty 
big room. Only the voice of Weil broke this 
gilence: 

"Of course, commissioner, I tries to explain 
to her what the circumstances are. I tells 
her that, in the first place, on account of the 
mayor's orders about cutting down the gallery 
having gone into eflFect, it's an even bet her 
husband's picture ain't there anyhow — that 
it's most likely been destroyed; and in the 
second place, even if it is there, I tells her I've 
got no right to be giving it to her without an 
order from somebody higher up. But either 
she can't understand or she won't. I guess 
my being in imiform makes her think I'm 
running the whole department, and she won't 
seem to listen to what I says. 

"She cries and she carries on worse than 
ever, and begs and begs me to give it to her. 
I guess you know how excitable those Italian 
[2741 



1 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 



women can be, especially when they are 
Sicilians.' Anyhow, commissioner, after a lot 
erf that sort of thing I tells her to wait where 
she is for a minute. I leaves her and I goes 
across into the Bertillon room, where the 
pictures are, and I looks up this here Antonio 
Terranova. I forget his number now and I 
don't know how it is he comes to be over- 
looked when we're cleaning out the gallery; 
but he's there all right, full face and side view, 
with his gallery number in big white figures 
on his chest. And, commissioner, he's a 
pretty tolerable tough-looking Ginney." The 
witness checked an inclination to grin. "I 
takes a slant at his picture, and I can't make 
up my own mind which way he'll look the worst 
enlarged into a crayon portrait — full face or 
side view. I can still hear her crying outside 
the door. She's crying harder than ever. 

"I puts the picture back, and I goes out 
to where she is and tries to argue with her. 
It's no use. She goes down on her knees and 
holds the baby up, and tells me it ain't for her 
sake she's asking this — it's for the bambino. 
And she calls on a lot of Italian saints that I 
never even heard the names of some of them 
before — and so on, like that. It's pretty 
tough. 

"She's such a stupid, ignorant thing you 
can't help from feeling sorry for her — nobody 
could." He hesitated a moment as though 
seeking for words of explanation and extenua- 

[275] 



THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM 

tion that were not in his regular vocabulary. 
"I got kids of my own, commissioner," he 
said suddenly, and stopped dead short for a 
moment. "I'm no Italian, but I got kids of 
my own!" he repeated, as though the fact 
constituted a defense. 

"Well, well — what happened then?" The 
deputy commissioner's frosty voice seemed to 
have frozen so hard it had a crack in it. And 
now then the Semitic face of Weil twisted into 
a grin that was more than shamefaced — it 
was downright sheepish. 

"Why, then," he said, "when I comes back 
out of the Bertillon room the second time she 
goes back down on her knees again and she 
says to me — of course she ain't expected to 
know what my religion is — maybe that ex- 
plains it, commissioner — she says to me that 
all her life — every morning and every night 
— she's going to pray to the Blessed Virgin 
for me. That's what she says anyway. So I 
just lets it go at that." 

He halted as though he were through. 

"Then do I understand that, without an 
order from any superior authority, you gave 
this here woman certain property belonging 
to the Pohce Department?" Old Donohue's 
voice was gruffer than common, even. He 
whetted his talon forefinger on the desk top. 

"Yes, sir," owned up the Jew. "There's 
nobody there but just us two. And I don't 
know how Captain Meagher comes to find the 

[276] 



GUILTY AS CHARGED 

picture is gone and that it was me took it — 
but it's true, commissioner. She goes away 
kissing it and holding it to the breast of her 
clothes — that Rogues' Gallery picture! Yes, 
sir; I gives it to her." 

The third deputy commissioner's gold-banded 
right arm was shoved out, with all the lean 
fingers upon the hand at the far end of it 
widely extended. He spoke, and something 
in his throat — a hard lump perhaps — husked 
his brogue and made his r's roll out like dice. 

"Lieutenant Weil," he said, "I congratulate 
you ! You're guilty ! " 



[2771 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY 



'dul [SderiiLa